I braved the (one inch of) snow last week and attended a nighttime meeting at the high school.
About eighty of the employees went in all to hear a visiting consultant speak about school safety. I dreaded hearing about metal detectors and police patrols and making our schools resemble prisons so that a mom coming to bring cupcakes would get frisked or something.
Instead, this woman talked about mental health. About warning signs that a child might have suicidal thoughts as early as first grade. About tiny signals they give that all is not well.
I sat up and listened, you can bet.
A lot of the talk was about cyberbullying and how this generation forms their identity largely around what their online associates say about them and how they feel compelled to check it constantly to see who they are. This virtual identity building (and destruction) can compress the years of suicidal thoughts during which we can intervene into a matter of months or even weeks if bullying escalates to make life so unlivable.
I wanted to flee the room and get on ItGetsBetter immediately because I love me some It Gets Better. And it's NEEDED.
The part that caught my attention most was the fact that suicidal thought tend to become more serious ina predictable arc. Like "I could just kill myself. Then that teacher/kid/parent would be sorry" is followed by "I could kill myself with mom's pills/dad's gun" and then they start visiting the item, fixing it in their minds, and then they take it to their room for opportunity and they rehearse by holding it in their hand. Like that. Once they fantasize about the item enough that they become literally disoriented to look up and find themselves in class, not on their bed with a gun, it's the danger zone.
There's a kid in my class who threatens to hurt him/herself. There's another to scratches his/her own arm hard when angry. It's time for me to know these things.
So I'm asking the creepy dark question. How many of you remember having suicidal thoughts? How old were you? What helped? And what did you imagine?
I was fifteen. I imagined driving my truck off a bridge, thinking it would be nice to just drown. I parked on the bridge a few times but never tried. It stopped around the time I started college, as did the eating disorder and other forms of self-punishment.