A community in Canada struggles to understand the rumor of a girls club called “Forever 15”. To be a part of this club, you must commit suicide before you turn 16.
The thought of young girls choosing death deeply saddens me and as a mother, it scares me beyond words as I have a daughter who is almost 13.
Why on earth would young girls feel the need to make a pact about ending their lives? There is so much weight put on teenagers, especially girls, to belong and feel accepted. Does it really have to go this far?
When teens are making a pact to commit suicide, we must question why? What is the why? I can only assume it is to feel a sense of belonging, to be a part of something that feels right to them, that helps teen girls feel that they are not alone.
Are they affected by a mental illness or is this the result of peer pressure? We don’t know. What I do know is that you must learn how to identify whether or not your teen is affected by a mental illness.
Know the warning signs, and how you can support your teen. Talk to them with openness and honesty, and from a place of unconditional love versus fear or blame. You can refer to Prevent Suicide in Children through Education for additional scripts, resources and links.
Teens and Youth Do Not Understand Death
The first topic of conversation to address is how much do teens know about death? As a society, we tend to shy away and fear death. We don’t talk about it. In movies, characters are resurrected – it is portrayed that death is not final.
Death IS final. . .
As parents, teachers, and people associated with youth, we must educate them and empower them to understand death. In suicide, the aftershock of death is devastating. Family members and friends are left with thoughts of guilt, shame, anger, tremendous loss and a question that will haunt them forever: Why?
How Do I Talk to My Child about Death?
There are many age-appropriate resources available. For younger children, I recommend the book Gentle Willow. It’s a beautiful story that is relatable and opens up the conversation to discuss dying and death. In the “Talking to Children about Death” document from the National Institutes of Health, one of the most important things to note and recognize is Not having all the answers.
When talking with children, many of us feel uncomfortable if we do not have all the answers. Young children, in particular, seem to expect parents to be all knowing, even about death. But death, the one certainty in life, is life’s greatest uncertainty.
Coming to terms with death can be a lifelong process. We may find different answers at different stages of our lives, or we may always feel uncertain and fearful. If we have unresolved fears and questions, we may wonder how to provide comforting answers for our children.
While not all our answers may be comforting, we can share what we truly believe. Where we have doubts, an honest, “I just don’t know the answer to that one,” may be more comforting than an explanation that we do not quite believe.
Louise Hay sums death up beautifully in her book “Letters
“I am at peace with the process of death and grieving. I give myself time and space to go through this normal, natural process of life. I am gentle with myself. I allow myself to work through the grief. I am aware that I can never lose anyone and that I am never lost. In the twinkling of an eye, I will connect with that soul again. Everyone dies. Trees, animals, birds, rivers, and even stars are born and die. And so do I. And all in the perfect time-space sequence.”
Taking Responsibility to Empower Your Child
- Be accountable and take responsibility to educate yourself about suicide prevention.
- Learn about the signs to watch out for.
- Talk openly with your child(ren) about death, mental health and suicide.
- Show UP with love, kindness and gratitude.
- Create a healthy and supportive space for your child(ren) to feel free to express all emotions.