By: Sarah Sargent
If you have ever attended a Shine event you know we don’t shy away from difficult topics. This month’s blog is no different. Before we get started take a couple deep breaths and try to lower your blood pressure as much as possible. For the next few minutes, we will be talking about a topic that is a parent’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, it is too often a parent’s reality. Childrenshospital.org reports that “according to 2019 statistics from the CDC, 8.9 percent of high school students surveyed attempted suicide and 18.8 percent of high school students ‘seriously considered’ attempting suicide.”
My friend, Ashley, is in her mid 20’s and recently graduated with her degree in childhood education. When she was in high school, she attempted to take her life. God intervened and made a miraculous change in her life. Now she is an advocate for mental health issues and warrior for Jesus Christ. For this blog I wanted to let you hear about this hard topic from her.
What have you learned from surviving a suicide attempt?
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It was such a dark place and I felt so alone. Immediately after, my family took me to church. I met people who loved me with no expectations. They loved me because God’s love lived in and poured out of them. Through them I learned God loved me.
What’s one thing you would tell a parent or a youth leader who believes they have a kid struggling with suicidal thoughts?
You have to do something!. The risk of losing them out ways any kind of broken relationship or anything like that. So certainly, pray about the right way to as,k but confront it immediately. Look for warning signs.
What are some of these warning signs?
- Changes to their sleep patterns.
- If they don’t like the things, they used to like to do.
- Nothing seems to bring them joy.
- They stop hanging out with their friends.
- Another big one is how they wear their clothes.
How do you think social media and all of that contributes to mental illness, depression and suicide?
It has a major impact! Adults need to be very careful what their kids are viewing. What content they are seeing? Not just social media, Tik Tok, or Instagram, but tv shows, movies, videos, etc. It puts those ideas in their heads. Things are almost amplified.
Also, people can just be mean. On social media people are worse. There are bullies everywhere hiding behind the screen and some of them are adults. That makes this very scary.
How can a parent really help a child press into God during their dark times?
It starts by living the example. Seeing your parents press into God during their dark times will teach you to do it as well. It also helps if you are vulnerable with them. Let them know you also struggle with things, but this is what God has done in your life.
You can share what Bible stories and verses have brought you encouragement during your rough times. Everyone struggles with deep sadness. It may not be on the same level as your teen, but show them this is okay and normal. Reassure your teen that you will do whatever is possible to help them. It starts with a conversation. Get them around people who will pray with and for them. Get them involved in activities where they can open up. Be around people who can help them on a mental health level as well as a spiritual levell.
If I had to guess you feel a bit overwhelmed and you desperately want more information. You want to get into to minds of your teens and you want resources to help. I want to end this blog with things to help you do both.
• What’s something you wish I knew about your mental health?
• How can you better help those who have mental health struggles? Do you know what to do if a friend tells you they’re considering self-harm or suicide?
• How do your friends talk about mental health issues? Do you have someone besides me that you can talk to if you’re struggling?
• How can I best help you press into God during your dark times?
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or 1-800-273-TALK
- Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) or 1-800-SUICIDE
- Christianity Today’s “Top 10 Resources for Mental Health Ministry”
- A parent’s guide to Suicide and Self Harm
- A parent’s guide to Depression & Anxiety
- Suicide Video Kit