With around 10 suicides a week in New Zealand, the highest rate being in our Kiwi youth aged 15-24, it seems that it has almost hit epidemic numbers. As well as this, intentional self harming injuries have brought over 2500 admissions to our hospitals each year.
It has been personally confronting to be to be dealing with these issues first hand on the home front and in our close community over past months.
For my/our generations these behaviors are almost bewildering. We struggle to understand the ‘why’ behind our kids feeling the need to harm themselves, or comprehend the distress which our modern lives have left our kids with no where to go except to end their pain with such finality.
Several months ago when I was buried by the overwhelming distress of dealing with teen depression and anxiety I received an email announcing a seminar which sounded very interesting. I did some research and decided to sign up for it. I was doubly fortunate when my work decided to assist me to attend. I’d originally wanted to go for myself personally to learn to help my own kids, but was soon being confronted with these issues at work so signed up wearing several hats.
Then earlier this week I received a devastating message that a friend’s son had ended his life. This news just gut smacked me. I felt sick, numb, and so much grief for his family. I know what it’s like to deal with sudden traumatic death. I’ve walked that journey. It’s so bloody hard. It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. I know now nearly 4 years on that there is light, there is healing, that there is no forgetting the pain but we become stronger & bigger than the pain.
But this is the very beginning of his family’s journey and the pain is huge, overwhelmingly immense. No words can make any sense of their loss. Like me and mine, they just need love, wordless love and the allowance to grieve as they want for as long as they need.
Today I attended the seminar. It was very timely. Because everything was so raw and immediate I gained way more from it.
Dr Kirsten Davis, a clinical psychologist from Auckland spoke on ‘Managing Risk in Young People’. It was one of the best seminars I’ve attended. She taught us about effective assessment and therapeutic strategies for suicidal and self-harm behavior. She was an excellent presenter, using stories that were real and relatable. We did a lot of role play to reinforce our learning.
I was encouraged to learn that many of the strategies I had instinctively employed recently were actually ones she was teaching us. I can now build on those in the future with the information gleaned from her experiences.
Ultimately we all need to be heard and our emotions validated. We all need to feel special. We have to stop being too busy. Go hug your child. Focus on the person in front of you. Let them see you are really listening, that you do care enough. Build hope, nurture dreams. Open communication lines, listen – really listen. And don’t be afraid to talk about suicide & selfharming. Stop allowing them to be the elephants in the room. Honest and open discussion can allow them leave of absence by helping our young people learn new ways to alleviate their distress.