Teen Suicide: A Shocking Truth

Surviving the teen years totally unscathed is practically impossible. Most of us still carry at least a few scars of pre-adult angst, no matter how deeply they may lurk in our subconscious. It’s definitely a tough time. Teens are on the shaky fence between childhood and adulthood, they’re trying to fit in and be accepted, and they're usually filled with doubts about the future. Many are also under tremendous pressure to succeed, by their parents, teachers, and coaches. Some have little guidance at home. They're constantly tempted with drugs and alcohol. All these elements can add up to troubled teens, which can lead to depression and suicide.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15-24-year-olds in the United States. That’s a sobering teen suicide rate, but I’m not really that surprised. As a retired teacher of teenagers, I’ve known more than my share of troubled teens and have known teen suicide first hand.

I genuinely cared about the well being of my students, both in and outside the classroom. I became very close to some, and whenever I lost one, I grieved. The memory of my first student death still haunts me. It involved a black male student named Jason.

Jason was a quiet boy but always had kind of a timid grin on his handsome face. He was a good student, but when he first came to my class, he was painfully shy. I joked and cut up with him for months, and he gradually became more and more relaxed and open in class. Late in the school year, he came up to my desk one Friday afternoon just before the final bell and handed me a picture of himself, saying, “Here, Mrs. Abee. Now you won’t ever forget me!”

I smiled and took the picture, saying something like, “Now how could I ever forget you?” We both laughed, and he left. I didn’t know it at the time, of course, but that was the last time I would ever see Jason. When I got to school the next Monday morning, I discovered that Jason had been killed the day before in a four-wheeler accident. I wept for the lost life, for the lost potential. I felt that the world had indeed lost a wonderful future adult.

As painful as Jason’s death was for me, however, the next fall, I experienced a much more crushing sense of loss. That year, I was teaching a friend of Jason’s. His name was Clay.

Clay was tall and athletic, and like Jason, he was always smiling. His demeanor, however, was quite the antithesis of Jason’s. Clay was happy go lucky and outgoing. He was a star on the high school varsity football team, playing as a wide receiver. He had been heavily scouted in his junior year, and now he was a senior and was looking forward to being seduced by colleges. He was a far cry from what anyone would consider one of those "troubled teens."

Clay was in my first period class, but he came to see me every day after school. Sometimes we talked about Jason, sometimes we talked about football, and sometimes we discussed his future. His dad wasn’t in the picture, and from what I could gather, his mom worked two jobs just to keep the family going. I think Clay saw me as a surrogate mother. Sometimes he’d call me “other mother” in front of his classmates, saying something like, “Can’t you see the resemblance?” He was being sarcastic – I’m very white and he was a chestnut brown.

I distinctly remember a conversation we had about a week before his death. We were talking about his college plans, and he said, “I’ll have the chance that Jason never had.”

Just a few days later, Clay was gone. He took his own life with a bottle of sleeping pills. I was devastated and in total shock. How could I have been so blind? This was a young man who talked to me one-on-one, practically every day. He was always happy and looking forward to his future. He never uttered anything remotely about dying or even about being unhappy.

We never found out why Clay killed himself. None of his friends had a clue, nor did any of his other teachers. His mother was at a loss, also. I’ve wondered many, many times – what could possibly have been so bad that he couldn’t confide in me or in his own mother or his friends? What had tortured his soul so much that he could no longer endure the emotional pain and depression? According to experts, there are warning signs when someone is contemplating suicide, but none of us saw any. We certainly had never thought of Clay as a suicidal teen.

Was there something I could have said or done to avert the situation? Could I have been a better counselor, a better mentor? Most teachers are taught about teen suicide prevention, but there were absolutely no warning signs - at least from my perspective. I struggled with this for years after Clay’s demise.

I still think of Clay from time to time, especially when I see a gifted receiver on a televised football game. I often think to myself, “Wow. That could have been Clay. If only…”

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Comments 22 comments

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Gosh, habee, what an experience and a load on your shoulder. I am sorry for you and the two young lives being lost.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks for your kind words, HH. I know death is just a part of life, but it's so tragic when it happens to a young person.


tantrum profile image

tantrum 6 years ago from Tropic of Capricorn

Usually when someone really wants to kill himself, there are no signs, habee. When you see signs it's because that person wants to be saved. If they get to kill themselves anyway, it's because nobody paid attention to them.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, Tantrum, for the comforting words.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago

I totally respect what you do and the things you have experienced............ we try to shape, mentor, and counsel our students, and in the end they each and every one of them have a huge influence on who we ourselves become and the ways in which we think.

Working with younger teenagers is hard........... I experience those first pangs of adolescence and confusion whereas as you get the full fledged, "Who am I's."

You do make a difference; you've made a difference in the life of every child who has ever touched yours. Remember that, it's the reason we reach out.


ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

Now stop right there. You will have been a wonderful teacher to them and such things are never anyone's fault. Sadly they just happen.

Suicide is so hard to come to terms with and so many times only the person who has died will know why it happened.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, Kaie. That's a tough age you work with - all the hormones and he-said-she-said. Bless you! most of mine were 17, 18, or 19 - except for when I taught 10th grade. I'll take the seniors any day! Thanks for your thoughful comments.

Oh, Ethel, I know you're right. I guess I'll just never understand it, though. You know, my dad shot himself at 85, and I understood his thinking behind it. But a young, healthy person with his whole life ahead of him? Too much to fathom. Thanks for being a friend!


lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

I was one of those suicidal teens, habee, and I have no idea how I made it through. If I had a mentor such as yourself, perhaps the ideation would have been lessened, but I tried a number of times to end my life.

When I attended college, however, I found such comfort in my professors that I believe I 'forgot' my despair and wanted to excel in my studies rather than hurt myself.

Your experiences were terribly difficult, and you did bring love to those two boys who needed it. None of the outcomes were your fault whatsoever. You are to be honored in your efforts!


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US

oh habee, very nice hub, and you do really care, it shows in this article too,

it is in the stage of their lives where they need the emotional support too,

Maita


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, Lorlie. I'm glad you found some worthy mentors. You deserved it.

Hi, Maita. Your kind words are much appreciated!


Putz Ballard profile image

Putz Ballard 6 years ago

Habee, My uncle committed suicide. there are no easy answers just questions for which seeminly there are no answers. We may all wonder if there is anything we might have done or said to have changed the sad outcome. It is apparent you cared for these two young people and I hope you find the comfort you need to heal the emotional hurt.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Oh, thank you, Robert. You're right, of course - sometimes there just doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason.


DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

DeBorrah K. Ogans 6 years ago

Habee, Very Interesting heartwrenching stories... This is a topic that needs to be brought to the forefront! Teens deal with so much pressure that comes from many sources. One just never knows!

Although very sad, I think your presence in both of their lives brought these young men much comfort. You were more than a teacher but a good caring friend as well to them that was there for them! However, there was still an evident longing and unresolved void that was not apparent...

With all the modes of communication teens are still suffering. This is why I wrote the hub on teenagers and sextexting! You are right it is still quite "Shocking!" Thank you for sharing, Blessings!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thank you, Deb. I hope you're right. I really tried to be.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Suicide is always a heart-wrenching thing and for those left behind it is very difficult to come to terms with. I wrote a Hub about six months ago about a young man who killed himself just when his life seemed to be going so well - top achiever at school, selected to be the head boy there for 2010, loving parents. And yet life became too hard or too meaningless for him.

I feel for your pain in this. However I think you did what you could and have absolutely nothing to reproach yourself with.

Thanks for sharing and I'm linking this to my Hub.

Love and peace

Tony


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thank you, Tony. I read your wonderful yet tragic hub, and I'm linking it to this one.


kdeane profile image

kdeane 5 years ago

Thank you for sharing your story..it's terrible that so many people have been affected by suicide. It is important for those who have been affected to talk about it and help raise awareness. My sister committed suicide 3 years ago, at at 18. So very tragic- because it is so final.


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Oh, that is tragic. I'm so sorry.


LWolf 5 years ago

If you are interested in giving teens a safe space to tell the truth please see info about Teen Talking Circles: http://www.teentalkingcircles.org/


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, Wolf!


Dmian profile image

Dmian 5 years ago

My exgirlfriend took her life 8 months ago she was only 19, her parents were always fighting and while we were still going out i did my best to encourage her to realize her beauty and intelligence, she was always happy when she was around me, but sometimes she would call me in the middle of the night crying she had so much fear i would left her alone... time passed and i moved out of the city she was to afraid to go with me she thought her mother needed her by her side i just couldn´t convice her 2 months later an old friend called me and gaved me the news... i can´t help but to feel guilty.


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

I know how you feel, but you CAN'T feel guilty. When someone makes up their mind to do this, there's usually little a friend can do to prevent it.

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