By Darcy McConnell, M.Ed., LPC, LADC, CADA
Dealing primarily with adolescents attending Edmond high schools, exposure to the current events and trending topics of teenagers is an ever present component of fulfilling the counselor role. The highly publicized Amanda Todd story became the topic of a recent emotional group discussion among local teens. Amanda Todd was a 15- year- old girl from Port Coquitlam, British Columbia who posted a video on YouTube called "My story: Struggling, bullying, suicide, self-harm" on Sept. 7 and was found dead in her home on Oct. 10. Since her death, the video has been viewed more than 3 million times. Amanda’s story is one that depicted years of bullying in school and online, previous suicide attempts and humiliation that lasted up until her death at fifteen. Sadly national statics reflect that suicide is the third-leading cause of death between the ages of 15 and 24, taking the lives of some 5,000 young people in the United States every year. That is approximately 5,000 young people who had their whole lives ahead of them--suddenly gone.
In reacting to this highly publicized story several group members brought up emotions related to either; someone that they knew who completed suicide or someone that they knew struggling with similar issues. The majority of the group reported that they had personal knowledge of individuals that had experienced name calling in school, Facebook bashing or even direct physical violence at the hands of peers.
Each and every suicide affects many others; parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, close friends, and more who are left shocked and devastated. Many people who know someone who has completed a suicide find themselves wondering what they could have done to prevent this or struggling with feelings of anger and guilt. Emotions that people experience related to suicide seem to go beyond the “normal” emotions of death. Suicide is not only a sudden and unexpected death but often times unexplained. It is not as clear a death as a result of illness, criminal acts, or even tragic accidents.
When dealing with someone who has been impacted by the suicide of another, it is the time to keep quiet, listen, and be available. Don’t feel obligated to speak because some of the greatest support one can offer is an open ear, an arm around a shoulder and the opportunity to cry with someone in silence.
Many individuals experience an array of intense emotions as they move through the process. Feelings of self-doubt, confusion, anger and guilt changing from moment to moment can leave one turning to isolation and unhealthy processing of emotions. It is important to understand that this is normal and expected. Reiterating, if and when these feeling become overwhelming, professional help in dealing with this process is easily accessible. If you suspect someone you know experiencing difficulty dealing with a suicide, help him or her access the needed supports. The most important point conveyed is that no one has to be alone in the grieving process.
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