You’re driving home from school. You’ve got the music playing and the driver’s side window down and suddenly you see a text come in. It’s from the mother of Kayla, your best friend. It’s odd that she sent you a text, you think to yourself. You pick up the phone at a red light and read what it says: When you can, come to our house. We have some important news to share.
You put the phone down without texting back. You’re curious and wonder what’s going on. Your best friend wasn’t in school today, but that’s because she’s not feeling well. She told you that last night on the phone. The light turns green. You turn the corner; drive about a mile, and then into the driveway of your home. Before even turning the car off, you write back: I can be there in 15 minutes.
Something in you sinks to the floor. It doesn’t sound good. The text and the way you responded; it’s all feeling like an emergency. You run inside the house, drop your bags on your bed and search for your parents. Looking in the kitchen and then the den, you find them both outside in the yard. “Hey,” you call out to them from the sliding glass door, “I have to run to Kayla’s. I’ll be back later.”
They nod. You turn around and you’re back in your car five minutes after you left it. But the drive to Kayla’s feels like you’re crossing the Sahara Desert; dragging out much longer than the 15 minutes it takes to get there; it feels like days.
Approaching their home, you see that Kayla’s parents are both standing in the driveway, like they’re waiting for you. You pull in a little closer and see that they’re both crying. You get out of the car, practically forgetting to turn it off, and walk up to them in horror. You stand in front of them, waiting for a word, a breath, a sigh, something.
“Kayla committed suicide this morning,” you hear. But that’s all you hear. Although her mother keeps talking among the tears, you heard all that you needed to hear. Sometime later, you get back into your car, full of tears yourself, and drive home.
It’s not until months later, when finally there’s a small opening inside the pain of losing her that you decide to learn about why someone your age, with so much life of ahead of them, would choose to end their life.
Teen suicide is the third leading cause of death of adolescents. The National Institute of Mental Health indicates that there are as many as 25 attempts of suicide to every one that is actually committed. Male teens are four more times likely to die from suicide, whereas female adolescents are more likely to make suicide attempts. Although there are many reasons that might cause a teen suicide attempt, the most common is depression. Other causes include divorce of parents, domestic violence, lack of success or progress in school, feelings of unworthiness, death of a loved one, and others.
Losing Kayla was the most important lesson of your life. You realize that teen suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and that her life could have been spared. Counseling, medication, even a residential treatment center could have helped her with her depression and saved her life. Although you know that losing Kayla was not your fault, today, when you see a friend who needs help with their thoughts and feelings, you talk to her and let her know that you want to talk to an adult too. You’re not shy about it at all; it could help save a life.
Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.