“Lord, help. How many are there dealing with this problem?” Braden’s Dad
“More than you could even fathom, Dad. Most aren’t ever reported because they don’t succeed. Even more want to try, but they’re afraid. They’re at risk and no one is even aware.” – Braden
This week, I received a note from a desperate mom. She’d just gone through two draining days in a local ER and was buried in red tape to get her suicidal teen admitted into a treatment facility. Her child wanted to take their own life and she had no insurance or means to pay for needed care. In west Texas-speak, “That’s one helluva note”.
We put out the word on social media and were blessed to have a number of donations through our non-profit organization called “BradensVoice”. Through readers’ generosity, we were able to give them enough funds to get and pay for a full two months of insurance premiums. [THANKS to those who contributed. It meant the world to this family].
By taking the bold and courageous step of getting help for her teen, this mom prevented a crisis from becoming a tragedy… at least for the time being.
Cathy and I recently met and talked with her. We spent several hours sharing stories and discussing cause-and-effect of schools and social culture in correlation with depression, anxiety, and suicide in this generation of teens. Her child had been deemed “At Risk” due to learning difficulties at a very young age. Ironically, the child’s IQ was at genius level, although reading was difficult.
We are praying for this family, as we do for all impacted by mental health issues. I’m confident they will navigate and trust God will guide their way.
I’ll never forget the first time we realized Braden had ADHD, and therefore “At Risk”. It scared me to think he would struggle to transition successfully into the responsibilities of adulthood. The battles this mother described with the schools, teachers, and administrators was exhausting just to hear, much less have to live. However, we did live them at times, in our own way.
We shared our own challenges with PPSP: “Parenting and Public School Politics”. Frankly, as we talked I became increasingly upset about circumstances, some of which Cathy knew but I’d not been fully aware. Public school systems are not presently well-suited to consistently help kids who are struggling. Specifically, those who are a square peg and not designed to fit into a round hole.
Today, more and more kids feel like “square pegs” on the inside even though, on the outside they look completely well-rounded. Some of these kids, if not a majority, are silently screaming “help” while drowning in pressures from parents, school, peers, college expectations, sports and the drama of social media. I would submit, these children are “at risk” as much or more than kids who typically get labeled with ADHD, dyslexia, autism, or other disabilities.
Each one of these conditions are labeled very specifically in medical journals, which makes dealing with them and compartmentalizing them much easier for everyone, in theory. The less convenient problem, which most will admit if they get honest, is that of the common child who gets along well with others, doesn’t fall behind academically, maybe excels at sports or another area, but who is destitute inside, not feeling purpose or true personal connection.
I have come to know many families who have lost a young person to suicide. There is no single profile, but rather every one is as unique as a thumbprint. One stands out, as their son was considered a very popular young man. Handsome, successful in school, and in most every sense well on his way to a hopeful future. Still, sadly he was missing a depth in relationship with “friends” and just thirsting for more. He took his own life without warning and it shocked the world around him.
Recently, in “Common Ground”, I wrote about the commonality a large number of today’s youth express in feeling a lack of deep connection with others. They feel alone in a large over-crowded world, many grappling with private pain. Many turn to self-harm or contemplate taking their own life.
Some will say, “That’s just part of growing up”, but the pressures our kids feel today are not the healthy kind nor at a sustainable level. Check the stats. Kids are killing themselves or attempting to do so at alarming rates today. Many are not going quite so far, but they are self-harming. In the past, these instances were extremely rare and far between. Now, we hear of so many kids involved with these thoughts or behaviors it’s become commonplace.
We have recently become more aware of how schools are required by mandate to provide very specific help for students, but many school districts aren’t following the rules set in place. Many of us don’t even know about the educational and mental health laws and regulations in place to deal with kids who are “At Risk”. I’m guilty.
Sadly, most school administrators, board members, and teachers have only a cursory knowledge about the laws and benefits state legislators have formed in this area. That’s not meant as an indictment, but parents MUST get proactively informed, and if we don’t remain in tune with our children, they are all at risk.
Today’s children are smart, savvy, and in-tune with us as parents. We should be even more in-tune with them. We need to ask them and routinely gauge their pressure in the areas of academics, peers, sports, etc. Let’s also involve them in a church community and model what it looks like to have our sole purpose and identity in Christ.
Kids are wrapped too tightly today with the stressors of their culture. As we teach them the way they should go, let’s model where to go for their source of peace in the midst of worry and fear.
Also, I’m personally doing the research and encourage you to do so in your own community. Know the people serving on our school boards Show appreciation for their service. Vote for change if they are uninformed about programs and regulations our state mandates to provide needed help. Because aren’t they all at risk?
Prayer for Parents
“Heavenly Father, guide us in our role to play an active part in knowing our children better and modeling lives they will find inspiring enough to draw them to You. Provide us the needed wisdom and discernment in our leadership of Your children.
We also pray over those kids who are out there right now feeling alone and hopeless in a busy and over-expecting world. Let them know they only need to seek You and there they will find peace beyond understanding. In Your Son, Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.