I’m Guilty, Too.


(On suicide prevention…)

I’m guilty, too.

Of letting my teen spend too much time online. Of not requiring her to spend enough time outdoors. Of letting it become too common practice to do our own things in separate rooms most of the time.

These are dangerous things. Especially in these times. Too many (more than zero) young people take their own lives because they are ill, and parents and teachers too often simply aren’t aware. And often, being aware still isn’t enough. Sometimes, being the best parent isn’t enough. Sometimes, love simply isn’t enough.

I think all we can do as parents and teachers is our part. But most of us can do better with our part.

As a high school senior teacher, I have mental health on my radar foremost. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Way before academics. No one flies under my radar. Sometimes, I need to slip a student my banana. Sometimes, a secret note. Sometimes, a hug. Sometimes, some one-on-words in the hall. Sometimes, I need to repeat the question, insisting they look at me this time: “Are you okay?” Sometimes, as an English teacher, I give them writing journal prompts so they can vent. I simply try to be aware. I go out of my way to know each and every student. Mental health illness is not selective in who it takes. The star athlete and the quiet kid in the corner are equally susceptible to becoming prey. I’ve witnessed it.

I went to a Catholic high school in the late 80s. A popular girl cut her wrist during school and was carried to the nurse by her boyfriend. Self-harm is not new. Yet, it seems too much like a common option these days. And then there are those young people telling each other to kill themselves: that seems new and especially twisted. Suicide by younger children especially baffles me: I don’t remember that ever.

Our youth need adequate (healthy) family time, community time, outdoor time, physical activity, healthy social activities, and a higher power. Mental health illness will still come. But these are the essential bare minimums we really need to make priority to fully develop our children and students, to arm them as much as possible.

They need to know they are loved and that they are (so much more than) good enough and that they matter and that their future is full of hope and potential.

We need to do more. We ALL need to unplug more. Have actual face time. Stay outside in nature longer. Pray together. Not make “God” or “Jesus” a controversial bad word. I can’t imagine going through what I’ve gone through myself in life so far without a higher power. I can’t imagine thinking about my personal potential, my self-esteem, my future without a higher power. You are NEVER alone with belief that you were created with loving purpose, that He always walks beside or carries you, that He alone has seen what is ahead and would never lead you into harm, that you are a precious child of God and must respect your own body and life.

I can’t share my faith with my students. But when I am hungry, I can sneak my breakfast to that one kid instead. I can let them know they are loved. I can openly believe in them. I can model care and respect for all.

I share my faith with my children. But I can simply spend more time with them. In this out-of-control digital age, I think we all can. And we must revert or start today. It may not be enough. But it could be.


(This morning, after viewing a friend’s posted FB video clip, another started automatically rolling, a moving one by a dad who recently lost his 12-yr-old son and was contemplating the effects of COVID isolation. 12 years old…)

9 thoughts on “I’m Guilty, Too.

  1. Every now and then
    you’d fight space monsters for custody of my arms –

    the hand that scratched and the arm that bled.
    They’d paint the air, these scratches,
    right across the sky,
    like vapour trails.

    They were yours once –
    yours to watch
    and fuss over,
    you being the one place I couldn’t hide my pollution from.

    You hated them,
    hated seeing me make them,
    even made me weep for hurting you –
    the one weapon you had left,
    your wounded disapproval, handwritten in the clouds.

    But you knew the skies I ached for…
    and you knew,
    better than anyone,
    that scratches were as close as I could get –

    the vapour trails
    of tiny fingernail flights.

    So you owned the days when I made them…
    sat and held me through them
    and told me stories of a love,
    big enough to scrape me free
    from all those jet wounds in my soul.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This hits me close being a mom of two teenage girls. One’s grown and out of the house already at 19 and she has struggled with MH issues. It was very hard and scary at times during her high school years. She kept busy with sports and other activities that helped, as does my younger one but overall too much time in their rooms on social media, I agree.

    I constantly encourage other activities such as artwork and reading to no avail, can’t force them to do it at this age in my opinion. My older one would use artwork as a coping mechanism so that was helpful, my younger one is not having any MH issues so I tend to be less worried about these things. Although she did agree to let me take her to the library some time, it just has yet to happen yet. I’ll believe it when I see it, lol.

    You have a unique opportunity as a teacher to reach many kids and make a difference, thanks for taking advantage of that. And for your open post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Sheila, for reading and for the opportunity for conversation!

      Yes, I am an English teacher and currently trying to get my teen daughter to continue reading. My son, 26, returned to both faith and reading later as an adult, so there is hope once we lay the foundation and continue to be role models.

      My daughter has her art and our shared passion of outdoor photography, so I am happy about that. She is very shy, so getting her into activities and clubs is near impossible, even though it would be good for her.

      As for the unique opportunity as a teacher, I agree. It is truly my calling and passion, though, so caring for each comes naturally. They break my compassionate heart a lot but continuously fill it, too. And leave me every year! 😦 School is vital for many, for more than education.

      It also takes a community! This I truly believe.


  3. Also wanted to mention how important I think faith in a higher power is for me and my kids as well. I don’t know always how much they truly lean on this but I know they know how to use it if they want to, at least I taught them that.

    Liked by 1 person

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