Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Teen Suicide Causes Great Pain

September 15, 2003

What would we say to you if you were here with us, our young friend?

You were too young to die. You didn’t give life a chance. You were so good, so talented, so loving, so needing of love. There will always be sadness connected with your memory. ..despite all your wonderful zest for life, your innocent brown eyes, your likable but exasperating personality.

Each of us is haunted by what you have done. All of us, in our way, have racked our souls with our last memories of and contact with you. We could have done more - a lot more -if we had only known how tormented you were.

We needed to know your pain, your suicidal thoughts, your loneliness, your anger, your discouragement, your hopeless feelings. Whatever it was, we needed to know it.

The love you wanted was just an honest cry of the heart away. Any of us, any of us, would have listened and found a way to get the help you needed. Now we are left with the memory how we "should" have known, how we could have reached out and didn't. You didn't give us a chance to show that we cared, that we could be trusted, that your life was precious to us.

We've learned by sad experience that it can happen. We've learned that someone close to us can be overwhelmed with life, can plan his or her own death and not tell a soul. We've learned in these last few days how irreversible death is. Wherever you are, you've learned that too.

And this we know, too. You let us down. You didn't trust us. And we let you down ...each of us lives with that guilt. But for us, our lives go on. The pain will recede. The sleepless nights will go away. We'll remember, but the pain will be dulled.

We have life. You don't, We'll be OK.

Some, like your family, will not be OK. Ever! The memory of what you did will haunt them until their dying days. If we think our burden is heavy, their burden is a thousand times more intense and painful.

I've heard parents say, "If our son could have known how this would affect us, he would have never committed suicide." They can't believe what a horrible nightmare a child's suicide is. They especially can't imagine their child wanting them to live with that nightmare.

The hell you visited on your family can't be any less than the hell that drove you to do what you did. Is that what you wanted? I don't think so.

You're not here, and for you it is too late. But maybe there is another young person out there somewhere who is thinking of suicide. Tell your parents what you are thinking. Give them a chance to help you. Tell your friends. Tell an adult. Tell anybody! Give us a chance.

Parents, sit down with your teens. Assure them how much you love and accept them, no matter what has happened. That you'll always be there for them. Let them know exactly how you would feel if they ever committed suicide. They need to know what suicide would do to you and the family. Before you are ever in a position to say, "If he'd only known how this would have affected us, he would have never committed suicide." Tell them know now.

Here's what one mother said about her 18 year old daughter's suicide. She talks about guilt feelings and then about the effect her death had on the other children in the family.

"There have been a number of suicides in the area. Every time I hear of one, I get a lump in my throat, not only because of the loss, but because of what the family has ahead of them.

"There are no answers to be found. It's all very complicated. Years down the road, you still don't know the reasons. There are times I get mad at our daughter who committed suicide for what she has done to our family. I feel she had to be very self-centered - thinking only of herself!

"Then there are times that I feel so lonely. It is really hard. Some days are good, and some days are not so good. Holidays are especially hard for us. You really have to keep holidays special too, for the sake of the other children. But it is hard!"

Teen-age friends, you can make a difference. If you are a true friend to someone you care about, there is one confidence you are never to keep. If your friend talks about suicide or scares you that he or she might attempt suicide, tell a parent, tell a school counselor, tell an adult, any adult. Tell someone. It is serious. Don't take that responsibility on yourself.

We won't forget you. We can't. More than anything, the memory of your death tells us we've failed. Your death teaches us how utterly final death is and how helpless we are. Your death has taught us that suicide can happen. If we could only reach out and prevent this from happening again - ever again - to anybody. Wherever you are, I’m sure you agree.