Did you know that suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people?
Yep. Me neither. And as a mom of a soon-to-be 12 year old, this statistic freaks me out.
From navigating the chaos of those first 5 years of boyhood (good grief will the energy never end) to making the hard decision to not allow t.v. or video games in our house (at least up until now – stay tuned on that one) to dealing with the first girlfriend (we live in ITALY. It’s not our fault), raising my incredibly wonderful, sweet, responsible, loving young man has been a whirlwind. It’s been hard (like cry every night after they go to bed hard). It’s been agonizing. It’s been insanely rewarding as he’s grown into a fabulous person. And as we enter the teenage years, I’m shying away and biting my nails because I’m just not sure I can handle this.
From friends that have lost loved young ones to suicide to family members that are currently struggling with mental health battles, this hits so close to home with me. And after raising a very type-a child in Japan for some of the most formative years of his life (Japan, one of the most amazing countries in the world, finds itself in the position where suicide is the top killer of men ages 20-44), I am so, so worried that my sweet, amazing, wonderful young man will at some point decide that he’s not enough. That he’s not good enough, or smart enough, or fast enough – and that he will go down into that valley of depression, and, possibly, despair.
This is not a problem that I fear alone. Teenagers all over the world are starting to succumb to the new OCD – no, not obsessive compulsive disorder, but obsessive comparison disorder. Social Media is leading us down a path of constant comparisons, constant shaming, a constant selfie life. I do not think Social Media is evil – indeed, I use it every day and allow my children to use it to connect with friends that they’ve left behind as we gypsy our military way across the world. But I do think it needs intention.
Recently a friend shared this article (that you can bet I saved on our Pinterest Board) about teenagers and Social Media. I could not love this piece more – or the intentionality of the writer. In all of my research on how to help people with mental illness, the thing that has struck me the most is how much they just need human companionship. Non-judgement. Love, encouragement, and understanding. In short, as Rachel says, they need to tether themselves to the love of this world, to the beauty, peace, and wonder that comes in human companionship and grace. I love that. I think it is the answer to so many questions. And it’s what we strive to do every day with Aina – to make some handmade, individually-blessed creations to let other people know that there is a community there, there for them, pulling for them.
So I’m sharing that article with my son, and we’re having a discussion about tethering. And then we’re going to make some of our Caring Card project together (the boy loves origami, I’m hoping he’ll go for it), write some notes of love and encouragement to people struggling with mental illness, and hopefully, hopefully, we’ll tether ourselves together to ride out the storm.
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Carmen Westbrook is the CEO and co-founder of Aina Giving, a female-led company that transforms women into world changers. Join the movement of DIY World Change and get our accredited projects, leadership coaching, and nonprofit consulting – email us and tell us how you want to change the world. We’ll help you get there.