“Dad, it will be uncomfortable but people need to hear what I couldn’t say. Whenever you get a chance, please tell people some things I couldn’t say.” – Braden
“I promise, son”- Braden’s Dad
“Why hasn’t someone begun openly talking about this before now? – Braden’s parents
Following the loss of our son, Braden on October 30, we have decided as a family to do what we can to help avoid the loss of other kids. We have chosen to be agents for drastically overdue culture change in our schools for the sake of other families dealing with a similar story.
Since 2010 or so, the rate of teen depression and suicide has increased by around 70%. Studies show this increase to correlate with the availability and use of technology. More specifically, social media. Kids are no longer talking with each other and learning the skills they need to begin and to building relationships. We are devastated, having lost our son and are left with the question: With such an epidemic going on in our world, why hasn’t someone begun talking about this more openly?
Some years ago, I was a high school teen growing up in the west Texas cotton fields of Brownfield. It’s funny. When I meet people they ask where I’m “From”. I always proudly reply, “Brownfield, Texas”. However, frequently my hometown’s name is mis-heard as “Brownwood” or more often, “Brownsville”.
Neither of these two Texas towns remotely resemble Brownfield. You see, Brownfield was just that, a very brown field of dirt and cotton. Although it was not overly pleasing to the eye aesthetically, to me it was an amazing daily adventure as a farm kid. In my mind, it was the best place in the world and if you didn’t grow up there, you were just disadvantaged.
Although this small Texas town could best be described as Mayberry from the old Andy Griffith Show, the culture my generation faced there as a teen was still tough. Depending upon who and where you were as a kid in that “perfect little world”, it was still hard to navigate. There was selfishness. There were the Popular kids and there were the Unpopular. We had the Invited and the Uninvited. Nothing novel about that.
Although Brownfield was similar to today’s teen experience, 2019 is exponentially different.
Today, the identity of kids chosen to be placed within each social group isn’t left to be internalized but rather broadly announced to hundreds or perhaps thousands. It’s done through the innovation Silicon Valley has created, packaged and sold as “Social Media“.
Since age 15, my youth minister at First Baptist Brownfield still remains my friend. Ron Hill recently invited me to speak at the Fellowship of San Antonio on this very sensitive topic of depression and suicide.
This went way outside my personal comfort zone. Still, I felt committed to speak on behalf of our son for those he would have wanted to hear these things. Sadly, he didn’t get the chance to do it himself.
We hope you’ll listen to the message. It’s very important. Also, please share if you know someone who may be trying to navigate a similar path.
What Can We Do?
Focus on teaching our kids how they should go. Don’t just send them to school or to church, but charge them with a simple mission. “Find someone today who needs you, make the small effort to make them feel important/ valued”. Ask them to go some place, even if it’s just to the couch they sit on, playing video games. Make and keep room for them. You will be amazed at what value and purpose that person may bring into your own life.
Praying for Readers
Lord, please bless readers of this blog and their families with your presence, peace, and purpose. We need You and our kids to place their purpose and identity in You alone.
Let our purpose and our identity be in You, even though it will certainly feel uncomfortable.