“I think we need to get rid of the stigma of the word. Students don’t know how to talk about it, parents don’t know how to talk about it.”
“You can’t begin to imagine what is being thrown at these kids.”
“I’m here because I’m scared out of my mind.”
“We need to find ways to celebrate our children’s inevitable failures.”
“One thing this conversation needs to address: how do we ask difficult questions?”
These words were spoken by parents of Kansas teens at the start of the #ZeroReasonsWhy campaign. They were gathered for a parent-centered “reverse hack,” a night of collaboration and brainstorming, voicing their perspectives to help address teen suicide. As the night progressed and the parents became more comfortable sharing their thoughts, several issues were discussed: bullying, academic pressure, athletic pressure, addiction to technology and the social isolation this creates, pre-existing mental illness and more. It became clear that while everyone present could articulate their concern for their children’s wellbeing and identify the various pressures felt by their children, solutions would not come easy. The tragedy of teen suicide is too great — and the circumstances that perpetuate conditions such as anxiety and depression that can lead to suicide — are too varied for there to be a single answer. But this event was not about finding solutions; it was about bringing a parent peer group together to learn from them and encourage them to increase communication with their teens.
The questions being asked by parents were not only how to prevent suicide, but:
- “How do we talk to our kids about suicide?”
- “How do we create spaces where it’s easier for them to share what they’re going through?”
- “How do we begin to alleviate the pressures they feel on a daily basis?”
- “How can we as a community of parents, teachers and administrators come together for the sake of our children?”
If you’re a parent with a teen, you likely resonate with these questions and concerns. #ZeroReasonsWhy is designed to help you learn more and address them, especially by learning from the teen perspective directly. There are no easy solutions, but we believe things can change. We believe that conversations like the one amongst those parents early in the campaign must continue and are vitally important for changing the narrative about mental health and suicide. That, in turn, makes healing, recovery, and prevention possible.
To explore more of our materials, including a video series designed specifically for parents, visit our Resources page. If you are a parent who needs extra support to help your teen’s mental health, don’t hesitate to reach out. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can help you navigate important conversations, connect you with more resources or simply talk through your concerns. Don’t wait until a crisis arises to reach out – prevention happens well before an emergency arises and someone is available now to talk with you: (800) 273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
by Davis Finley, Field Journalist