I’ve spent lots of time talking with kids who have tried to end their lives by suicide. One consistent theme appears to be their feelings of failure in dealing with relationships. They get overwhelmed by the complexity of relationships, ultimately concluding that the pain that people cause us is not worth the benefits.
Adults deal with those issues every day. Life’s meaning comes from our interactions with friends and family. However, such relationships require us to be genuine, which makes us vulnerable to hurt and rejection, which I think is a major factor in why 40,000 Americans die by suicide every year.
I don’t have an easy answer, but I suspect we just need to work harder in helping kids deal with the difficulties of relationships. We need to help them understand, control, and figure out how to appropriately express their own feelings, and respond to the feelings and behaviors of others.
This means preparing rather that protecting kids from experiencing failure and disappointment, particularly in their relationships. Let’s guide kids in developing the resiliency skills to deal with people’s drama and complexity.
Pain from relationships is inevitable. Suicide is not.
Next Week: Stop Petting Puppies!
Dr. Ramey is the Executive Director of Dayton Children’s Center for Pediatric Mental Health Resources and can be contacted at Rameyg@childrensdayton.org.