September 8, 2006
Identifying stress in youth

The news of an 18-year-old taking his own life last week was troubling and raises numerous questions and issues which our society must answer.

Pressure and stress affect all human beings from the child to the adult but the impact on children is far greater than on mature adults. The fact is that this thing known as “experience” is something we all need but never get it until after we needed it.{{more}} That’s the nature of experience – you have to go through the situation first in order to learn how to deal with similar situations in future.

Elsewhere in this newspaper there are calls from a secondary school principal and trained counselor for all schools to have on staff the trained eye of a counselor who could spot the telltale signs of stress among the youth that would lead to suicide.

Unlike adults, young people do not have the experience or maturity to think about life and life events in terms of the broader perspective or “big picture”. From their perspective, the problems they are experiencing will go on forever and there cannot be a brighter future. They feel helpless and hopeless, convinced that the problem is unique to them and therefore no one else can help. They believe that they can either choose to live with the pain, or end it by ending their life.

Psychologists say that the reasons for suicide are deep and long standing. The teen that attempted suicide right after his girlfriend broke up with him or the teen that contemplated suicide after losing her job probably had a history of low self-worth that was magnified by the upsetting event.

They tell us that there are certain telltale signs that we should look for in our youth. These include: trouble at home; change in family dynamics (i.e. new baby, older sister moves back home, Grandmother moves in); balancing relationships with divorced or separated parents; change of schools; difficulties at school; bullied at school; relationship breakup; social struggles; balancing school, work, social life, and family relationships; facing an environment that encourages drugs, alcohol, and sex; the natural separation from parents; dating; learning to accept themselves with or without talents and abilities; difficulty getting good grades for college/university; difficulty getting a part-time job; choosing a college/university; choosing a career.

At school and at home there must be more vigilance so that we will never again have to ask ourselves hard questions about how could such a nice jovial person do such a thing.

Let’s educate ourselves so we may help our young friends and family members.