A CRY FOR HELP, FROM OUR TEENAGERS: Encouraging words to help your teenager.
Let me tell you about Mike. Not the Football Captain, hot stuff, rich kid, most popular boy, ladies man Mike, but the real Mike. The test score on his paper screams FAILED. Again, the knot in his chest and throat grow bigger each day he sits in class trying to figure out the words on the board, in the books. He is suffocating, he would rather mask his struggle and be the strong popular athlete in school and enjoy the moment but the satisfaction is only temporary. He has a Harvard dream, an astronaut dream, but how is he going to get in if he keeps getting the school nerd Patrick, to do his homework and being the class classic jerk to teachers when they ask him questions just to hide his inability. How does he explain this thing Google says is Dyslexia? He fears the stigma and the mocking. It grows worse each day until it opened the door for depression and anxiety.
His parents never seeing eye to eye, never around, Mr. & Mrs. Smith own Fortune 500 companies so they live and breathe business and the requisite meetings that follow. Australia today, Germany tomorrow and when around, fights and arguments are how they communicate. His brother, hot-tempered with no patience, he’s endured years of secret bullying from him. He tries his friends, but all they see is the guy they wish to be. He tries his principal, all he sees is his golden athlete bringing the school fame and endorsements, he would rather falsely up Mike’s grades and tell the teachers to ignore his failures so he can progress in school as their star athlete than find out why his school grades are terrible. No one sees past the cloak, a young 16-year-old soul yearning to be rescued, wanting to be more but unable. His signal for safety unanswered, simply ignored.
The pressure in school, at home, feeling like the weight of the world is crushing him leads him to bury himself in drugs for an alternate reality. He needed more release, so he tried self-harm and liked it. It gave him ease, gave him a feeling of control or so he thought. The depression grew deeper, the crave for more self-harm stronger. Enduring years of family chaos and a secret struggle with dyslexia, the problems weighed in. He could no longer deal, he starts to cave in. It shows in his eyes, you can tell from his posts on Twitter, from the peculiar Instagram captions, but they are all blind. The athlete, rich kid, football captain, the most popular guy surrounded but isolated needed more release from the storm. He went the full circle with depression, slit his vein open and finally caved in. It was the most peace he had ever known.
Though the above is a fiction, it sheds light on the reality of a huge percentage of teenage life worldwide. Young people between the ages of 12-22 suffer from psychological problems caused by society, family and inner conflict problems. In recent years, there have been multiple cases of young people taking their lives to the surprise of family and friends. Worst still, some manifest their condition through overt acts such as violence. A classic example is the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting which occurred in Newtown, Connecticut, in the US on December 14, 2012. Adam Lanza, a 20 year old, opened fire and shot at children in the school as well as adults, before then on his way to school that morning shot and killed his mom at home. Before he could be apprehended, he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. There is no way a young boy of 20, will wake up one morning to commit this act, there must have been a lingering psychological problem, one that evidently his mother failed to observe and in this case, cost her, her life.
A lot of teenagers express a cry for help often times, but as parents/adults we must be attentative.
Signs of a disturbed teenager
I. Skipping classes and school: studies have shown that kids who are dealing with a challenge in school such as bullying tend to develop reluctance for attending classes and a habit for skipping school in general. This is usually the first trigger to more problems.
II. Alcohol and drug consumption: drugs and alcohol have an inhibiting effect. High consumption of these substances affects the thinking faculty of the consumer and sometimes gives off a feeling of euphoria, release, and calmness. It, however, wears off with the drug. This is why a disturbed teenager is most likely to get addicted to taking these substances, they crave an escape from whatever reality they’re running away from.
III. Reclusion and isolation: when your once bubbly child/ward suddenly develops a quiet and reserved personality, you need to check it out! Sometimes it might just be a natural change of personality since they are still in their formative years, most times something serious is going on with them. Your daughter or son could be getting raped, molested or bullied right under your nose. Or it might be an issue of inner conflict; struggling with their sexuality, inability, body. It could be anything.
IV. Scratch and cut signs: when you start to notice stuff like this, that teenager is neck deep in problems! It could be self-inflicted, it could be inflicted by another. It doesn’t matter the story he/she gives you as reasons, these kids are good at making up stories. If they can hide their problems up to this point, don’t believe a word. Get your Sherlock Holmes on and find out what the hell is going on.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services USA, about 3 million teenagers between 12-17 suffer from major depression. More than 2 million show that the depression experienced effects and impairs their daily function.
We need to do better, as parents, siblings, friends, teachers. How? You ask. Here’s how:
I. Pay more attention: to their activities in school, their grades, their relationship with friends, and their mood. And whether you find it ridiculous or not, their social media accounts and the content they post. A CNN special report made in 2015 conducted for more than 200 13-year-olds revealed that “there is no firm line between their real and online world”. So parents, guardians, better get updated and get on Facebook, Instagram, twitter etc if you really want to monitor and observe your kids/wards.
II. Show love and understanding: when you see a teenager acting up even though they can be the most annoying little humans in the world, do not push them away! Do not punish unnecessarily, do not judge them for their shortcomings either. Show love, bring them in, cause that is the only way to figure out what’s going on and when you do that, motivate them, encourage, give inspiring stories of other people who struggled with similar situations and how they overcame. It would help them heal or deal with their problems faster.
III. Get professional help: as much as we would love to be the Jerry Springer of our kids/wards life, there are some things that can’t be handled by untrained individuals. Take the young person to a professional, they studied issues like this for a reason. Ranging from school counselors to psychiatrist. Get that young boy or girl the professional help she/he needs before it too late.
IV. When you start to notice cuts and marks on a teenager’s body, take away all self-inflicting materials and make them as inaccessible as possible. Better safe than sorry.
Encouraging Thoughts: It is not enough to say you know your child, ward, friend, sibling. Are you conscious of their battles and inner demons?