We were in the check out line yesterday, and Grace made a comment about Amanda Todd. Amanda Todd is the girl from British Columbia who took her own life because she could no longer deal with the bullying. It is very difficult to not see the pictures of that young girl everywhere. She is on the internet, magazines, newspapers, television. Grace started to recite infomation about Amanda Todd, and her death, and about how she had left her mother a video message, and her mother was not brave enough to watch it. Grace may as well have slapped me in the face, because I was totally unprepared to have this conversation, let alone while in line with strangers surrounding us.
I have had "The Sex Talk" with Grace, well at least chapter one of it (I intend to revisit that conversation regularly). We have had the "Stranger Danger" talk, and have talked about what she should do if someone she knows makes her feel uncomfortable or touches her. We have had chapter one in "The Drugs and Alcohol" conversation. It has never occurred to me, until now to have a "Suicide" conversation. Maybe if more of us had that conversation there would be less children committing suicide. This was not a conversation I ever envisioned having with my children.
I decided that I needed to talk to Grace about this, but Walmart was not the right setting. I don't really know anything about suicide, I have never really been touched by it. I have known hopelessness, but I never ever contemplated taking my own life. I cannot imagine the kind of pain that parents of suicide victims must go through. After Gabe's death, people said extremely stupid, insensitive things to me. I cannot imagine what those same idiots would have to say to the parents of a suicide victim. Every five seconds it seems someone is selling something pink for breast cancer, or doing a cancer run, or fundraiser. You never see suicide fundraisers. No one talks about suicide because it's well.... unthinkable. It makes people uncomfortable, it also puts people on their high horse.
I began to do a little research, and it was scary. First of all the "suicide" rates are a bit stretchy because often they are not listed as suicide. The World Health Organization has estimated that someone every 40 seconds around the world takes their own life. In Canada 15 out of every 100, 000 deaths are from suicide. Among 15 - 24 year olds 24% of all deaths were due to suicide. 73% of hospital admissions for attempted suicide were for people aged 15 - 44 years old. In Canada suicide is listed as one of the top 10 causes of death. Like I said frightening.
I waited until the other kids were off playing and sat down with Grace. I asked her what she knew about Amanda Todd. She told me that Amanda had killed herself because of bullying. This is the point that I took a deep breath, not wanting to have this conversation, but knowing that this was a good opportunity to check in with her. I told her what I knew about the incident. She had been a lonely girl, who made a bad decision to show herself to an unknown person on the internet. She did not know this man, and he then posted those intimate pictures of her all over the internet. I then asked Grace if she would ever do that. She was horrified and said "NO". I then told her that was why we don't allow her to give out personal information on the internet. It's also why we have so many rules about the computer. I told her that no matter what she did, no matter how much trouble she thought that she might get into, she should always tell us. I then talked to her about how sometimes people feel so sad that they feel that it would be better to be dead than to live the life that they are currently in. We talked about how if she ever felt like that, she needed to talk to us, or to someone. I then asked her what she would do if one of her friends told her that they felt like that. I told her that she needed to tell someone, either us or a teacher, but someone. We ended the talk with how important it is for her to talk to us about what's going on in her life.
Here is what is what my major problem is with the whole way the media is portraying the Amanda Todd case, it's being blamed on the bullies. The whole media buzz basically is calling this "murder". It makes the case more sensational I guess. The bullies did not take her life, she did. She was this poor little girl who made some bad decisions (kids do). She was bullied. Lots of us have been bullied, not many of us decide to take our lives because of it. Yes we need to do something about bullying, but to me that is not what this is all about. The real issue is to me about mental health, and suicide prevention. It makes it easier to mentally deal with murder, someone having their life "taken", than it does to deal with suicide, where someone "gives" their life away. We need to change our thinking, to save our children. We need to take the stigma out of mental health. We need to better recognize suicide warning signs.