I read her status updates each day and hurt for her.
My Facebook friend.
Every post is about her son. And her grief.
Her sweet boy is gone.
One day…full of life and laughter.
The next day…gone.
He took his own life.
The life full of so much promise…now over.
He was just 20 years old.
I can’t help but think of my own son, also 20.
Also in college.
And also a little bit lost.
So I text my child, hoping to catch him tonight, just to tell him I love him.
He’s not a talker. I wish, but he’s not.
And that’s ok tonight. Trust me, he’s already heard more than he wants to about my other friends whose children call every day.
But tonight, I don’t want him to hear disappointment.
I want him to hear my love.
I want him to feel my love.
Because I know right now, he’s struggling.
As much fun as college can be, it’s also really hard for him.
Sure, he’s made some great friends, but he’s also had some heartache.
And he’s not doing as well in his classes as he needs to be doing right now.
He knows all about everyone’s expectations. And he’s trying to meet them.
But he also still isn’t really sure what he’s going to do with his life.
While his friends make plans for the perfect career, he is still searching.
To be honest, I think he’s still trying to figure out who he is, not just what he wants to be.
In a way, I think he’s still not sure there’s a place for him out there.
As his parent, I walk a bit of a balance beam. Strict. Demanding. Stressing that sleeping in or missing class isn’t ok. Nobody is ok with failing grades.
Meantime, making it clear it’s ok if he needs…or wants…to take some time off to go get some perspective. Do some soul searching. Travel the world. I’ve encouraged it.
I want him to be successful…to graduate…to launch that career of his dreams.
But I also know that career might not be his dream. And I want him to know that’s ok, too.
Mostly, I just want him happy. To be a good person. To get through this tough stage…I hope it’s a stage…and to know, more than anything, that if he needs help, I want him to get it.
Because I’ve seen the numbers. And they scare me. A lot.
According to Emory University, there are more than 1,000 suicides on college campuses each year.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people aged 25 to 34 and the third-leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24.
Groups that are particularly at risk are male, white, and under the age of 21.
There are four male suicides for every female suicide.
One in 10 college students has made a plan for suicide.
College may conjure up memories of fun and good times for you now, but think back to when you were there.
Risk Factors Specific to College Students
- New environment
- Loss of a social network
- Loss of the safety net found at home
- Pressure academically or socially
- Isolation and alienation
- Lack of coping skills
- Difficulty adjusting to new demands of college life
- Decreased academic performance and subsequent feelings of failure
- Experimentation with drugs and alcohol
Understand why I’m so scared now?
Nobody wants to talk about it, but we should. We must. Our kids need to know there’s help out there. That they’re not alone.
Our children–and even at 20, they are our children–need to know they are loved and that even if they can’t see a bright future, we can.
I know my friend wants you to know that, too.
Maybe that’s the only good that can come of her own son’s sadness.
NOTE: IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU LOVE IS CONSIDERING SUICIDE, PLEASE CALL THE 24 HOUR NATIONAL HOTLINE AT 1-800-273-TALK (8255).