Suicide. The first questions asked are --
Who, what, when, where, why, how?
We have some answers, we know the who, the what, the when, the where, and the how, but why? Sometimes we don't have the answer to WHY.
But for some reason... Whenever someone mentions teen suicide -- minds instantly jump to bullying. Why is that?
Movies like "Mean Girls" and "Cyberbully", assemblies on "Bully-Free School Zones" and programs like "Safe2Tell" -- are everywhere. And there may even be the occasional suicide prevention number. But where are the suicide prevention assemblies? It seems that schools with high suicide rates portray bullying as the "why." They treat bullying as the constant cause, and suicide as the instant effect. That is to say, when suicide exists, bullying must exist also. when the reality is, bullying does not end in a suicide -- at least, not always.
Lets talk about bullying. Is it a problem? Yes. Does it happen? Yes. Is it hurtful? Yes. Can it trigger someone to a suicide attempt? Absolutely. Bullying is dangerous, no one knows what's happening in another person's life, not to mention the added emotional trauma a person goes through due to bullying.
Certainly people may end their life as a response to to bullying, and that is something that needs to stop. In Generation Z, cyber-bullying is especially common and it wounds people. Again however, bullying and suicide are not one and the same.
A major cause of suicide is mental illness, a common theme, drug usage. Other causes can be anything. Anything from a pet dying to a response to severe abuse. Finding the reason for teen suicide is not as simple as "were they bullied?" There are so many other factors that could be in play. The hard truth is that no one knows why.
In my personal experience with depression, I didn't know why I was depressed. I have a good family, a nice home, passions and talents, and because of that, I intentionally put myself in situations/ relationships that would "allow" me to feel suicidal with justification. Was I bullied? Well, yes -- I bullied myself and I sought out people who treated me poorly.
Of course, there was bullying in sixth grade that hurt my self esteem, there were girls in the locker room who could only say nasty things -- but none of that caused a suicide attempt, nor began my self harm.
When a person is struggling with thoughts of suicide,rather than only looking at bullying -- please look at the whole picture! Suicidal thoughts, depression, and self harm behaviors, are NOT to be generalized and oversimplified. It is different for every person. This means, if the cause is different, then the solution must be different as well.
There are programs called, Signs of Suicide. These programs describe the general characteristics of a suicidal person.
-Failing their classes
-Withdrawing from friends and family
-Drawing/ speaking about death
It is true that these are signs of suicide, however people who struggle with suicide -- especially teens, know how to hide. They know the signs too. If they don't want to be seen as suicidal, they will paint a pretty peppy face and pretend like everything is fine. They will condemn themselves to silence.
That is why people often say "It was so unexpected." It is not because they didn't know the signs, or what to do -- it's because the person who took their life did not want to be seen.
No one knows another person's thoughts, no one knows another person's life fully. Treat everyone with love, with respect. Why? Because in reality - the "general" signs you may be on the lookout for are the very ones someone knows that they need to cover up, and your kindness could make all the difference. So even if bullying isn't the cause of suicide perhaps NOT BULLYING (going out of your way to be kind) could be a piece of the solution.