Hear Me Out: Suicide Prevention

“Is Your Child Thinking about Suicide? Talk to Them.”

By Iuri T. Melo

My dear friends, can I have just a few moments of your time? I won’t take long, and I hope that you can take what we talk about to your children.

A few years ago, a young man who lived in my community died by suicide. He left a video on Facebook as a note, giving a reason for the action he took. He didn’t want anyone to feel blame.  He attempted to reassure others it wasn’t about them, only that he didn’t really know why, but he couldn’t go on. He talked about his thoughts and feelings about mental illness, but either way, it seemed too much. He seemed kind and considerate. He was bright. He appeared sincere and didn’t want to hurt anyone. He apologized to friends and said goodbye to them. He wrote notes to some of them. He addressed his mother, father, and siblings in the hopes that what he was considering doing wouldn’t be taken personally or be damaging to them. He was trying to be real. He was like me. He was like you. He was like all of us. I love that boy. We all need boys and girls like that to live!  

I want us to be absolutely real with our kids. I want to speak clearly and give them the very best that I possess. I feel for this young man and his suffering. His feelings of hopelessness and helplessness must have seemed so difficult, so hard, so eternal and terminal. I feel for his brothers and his family as well. I feel for his friends. The young man in this message was not well in that moment. He felt hopeless and was convinced that he was helpless. He seemed sure that this was the only option, the only possible way, but I have to tell you—and I wish I would have had the opportunity to tell him—I wish I could have been close enough to share with him that he was incorrect.

I’m not upset with him or condemning him in any way for what he did. All I’m doing is writing this now in hopes that those who read it may find real hope to hang on, to stay, to endure, to grow. For some of our kids, it looks dark right now, like there are no doors, no windows, no future other than more hurt, disappointment and suffering. But we have to let them know there is more! There is always more. Things are always shifting. Nothing ever stays the same. Nothing. 

I’ve now met with hundreds—maybe thousands—of kids just like this young man who at one point or another wanted to end their life, even some that attempted. Some have stayed and forged on, walked on, pressed on, loved, and helped others—saved lives even. There is a great deal of suffering in this world. I will not deny it, nor will I minimize it, but our capacity—their capacity—to overcome, to grow wiser, stronger, more real, to gain greater depth, is larger and more important than their current suffering. We can help our kids become carriers of the most valuable asset in this world: hope. We can help them realize that things will absolutely be better and that they have a say, a capacity to act and transform, to heal, and to create beauty in this world. The kind of beauty that is completely unique to them. There is only one voice like each of our children, one set of fingerprints like theirs. Their capacity to give to this world is unique. I need it. We need it.

It’s obvious that there was great suffering in this young man, perhaps the greatest type of suffering. I refer to the suffering that is loneliness and feelings of being unloved or rejected. But suffering is never just suffering. Suffering is never meaningless. Suffering never travels alone. Many times suffering reveals the truth about others and about ourselves. 

Suffering also imbues individuals with the most critical of characteristics: compassion. Compassion can only come as a fruit of understanding, and understanding can only come through experience—experiences like the ones our kids are having right now. This great truth, this great power, this great knowledge is in them now, and with it, they can heal and bring redemption to the world around them. Our children can be carriers of that hope, love, and compassion. We can plead with them to be that carrier of hope. They are needed. They are beautiful. They are loved and will be loved.

They need to understand that the most important discipline they will learn in this life isn’t math, or science, or geography. It is to love themselves and to love others. Let’s teach them to go into life with confidence! To leave this state of mind and move confidently forward and upward. To rise up!  To stand up! Let’s teach them not to fight with their brain or convince themselves to end their lives, but to move toward doing something small and simple, something that will show kindness, affection, and gratitude. They can write a note, a text, an email. They can make a phone call or post on social media. They may feel like there is nothing left to give or that it is pointless to give, but we know that it is not true. Their words and deeds do matter. What they do matters. It absolutely matters to me.       

Our children are meant for great things! Their living is uniquely significant. Their presence, their friendship, their intelligence, their experience is deeply needed in this world. Not one other person is the same as your child. No one can say what they say the way they say it. No one laughs the way they laugh. No one can lift others the way they lift them. No one smiles quite like they smile. No one can speak about their personal struggles the way they do. Only them.  

Let’s say to our children, “I need you to live! Your unique life experience is necessary.”

I can understand that the thought of life coming to an end can feel relieving. I can even understand that suicide may seem and feel like the only viable option to escape circumstances.  Let us be so bold and upfront to say, and I say this in the kindest tone that I can muster, suicide is not what they are looking for. What our kids are seeking is peace, meaningful relationships, someone to love, fun, adventure. The solution is to live and to seek.

Not only will they be able to sprinkle these great events and adventures in their life, but they will also become the bringer of light and hope to others. Their experience of staring into the darkness, of staring into the dark night of the soul, will allow them to teach others how to do that as well. Perhaps their mission is revealing itself to them at this very moment. Sometimes it is only in the darkest of nights that we can see the complete brightness and beauty of the stars.  

Let’s let them know that there is hope! There is life! There are kisses to be given. Hugs to be had. Children to be born! Miracles to be seen and to participate in. The world needs their hands. It needs their wisdom and clarity. It needs their struggle.  

I may not know you or your children, but I’m connected to you and to them. My children are connected to them. Like ripples in the water, their influence impacts the collective conscience and experience they inhabit.  

Let’s summon our children’s courage. Let’s call for their compassion. Let’s invoke their highest reason and logic, not only to stay, but to stay and engage life in a new way!  

They can reach upward! Reach outward! The moment has arrived. It is a turning point in their lives. It’s time for them to share their moment with others. It’s time for them to rise from the ashes like a phoenix! Even now, as they pass through the valley of the shadow of death, a new life awaits them. They can’t go back to things the way they were. Really—they can’t. A new phase is starting for them.   

There are moments in our lives that change us forever. Perhaps this is one of those moments for your child. As they rise from the rubble of their struggles, I promise you, and I promise them, they will find diamonds, even a new and more complete perspective. We can help them remember that no failure is terminal. No emotion is chronic. No situation final. Life is in constant flux, and anyone can change course. We can try new and different things. Small steps and small changes can yield huge outcomes. Let’s be patient and encourage our children to be patient. Emotions change, situations transform, and somehow in the midst of all that changing lies peace and wisdom. It is there like a treasure, and perhaps, with a little bit of guidance, we can uncover it and become richer individuals and live fuller lives.

They may need some help. They may require another’s strength and perspective. They may need someone else’s light to light their way for a moment, but soon enough their light will burn brightly, and before they know it, they will become a source of light for others.  Let’s tell our children not to feel bad asking for help. At times, we may all need someone to be by us. This is okay. We all climb better together. We all need a little help. It is in helping and receiving help that we heal from the wounds of this world. Our children will become a beacon, a lighthouse, and a safe harbor for others.

This is the real future that awaits them!

Their courage inspires our courage. Their compassion motivates our compassion. Their wisdom enhances our wisdom. Their joy brings joy. Their hearts are soft. Their mind is willing. Instead of a suicide note, let’s help them write a new beginnings letter. Instead of reaching for death, let’s be the person they can reach out to for help. Perhaps someday I will meet you and your children. They can share your experience with me, and together we will rejoice as friends. Their life will fill mine, and mine theirs. We need them to stay!

Can I share just a few tips—a few thoughts that others who have walked this path have shared with me? You can share them with your children.

  1. Remember that people are essential. Ask for help. Go where people are. Share with someone you trust and respect
  2. Tap into a feel-good playlist, something that has positive associations for you—good memories that are connected to those sounds.
  3. Get yourself outside. Let the sun touch your skin. Let the light pass through your body and bring you energy, warmth, and light.
  4. Write down or express your ideas. This will give you something to focus on instead of just tug-of-warring with your brain that is running wild at the moment
  5. Be honest with people about what is helpful and what is not helpful. If you want someone to just listen, if you just want a hug or some affection, if you need a bit of space, you have to say it. And remember, engage with others. You don’t need to fight this one alone. Force your focus toward others.
  6. The fact that you are actually here listening to this shows your intention, your character, a willingness to be helped.
  7. Don’t go to a place where you will be alone. Distance yourself from physical things that will harm you. Make it easy on yourself by removing the hard decision. Go to a store, to a park, to a friend’s house, to the living room.
  8. Now, as the crisis passes—and it will pass—go, rest, maybe even sleep. It’s okay to miss things. It’s okay to be gentle and kind and good to yourself.  

I’m so grateful. I’m so honored that you would even hear me. I hope our children will consider what I am telling you right now. Let’s join them, take their hand, and walk with them into the world again confidently, knowing better, feeling better, thinking better. Thank you.