Speak up and Say Something
Speaking up is hard enough without the added stress of thinking about where to find the answers to the questions you worry most about. Life as a teenager can be stressful enough as it is… from homework to friendships, fighting with parents to getting into college. Sometimes, you don’t even know what questions to ask or how to articulate the thoughts in your head.
There are hundreds of resources for just about every problem you may have – and what’s cool about that is that those people DO have the answers to the questions you want answered. Whether you’re looking for help for yourself or for a friend, or just need someone to vent to, there are free resources available to you right now that can help with any problem – big or small. The first step is reaching out.
This page has the contact information you need to find out where you can reach out. It’s never too late to speak up and talk, someone is always ready to listen.
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Are you concerned that someone you know may be at risk for suicide? Learn the FACTS and warning signs.
When I got to school and heard the news, I thought they were kidding. It was too bizarre to believe. Then I realized they couldn’t be so sick to make up a joke that Mike was gone. I believed it – sorta. But I got to tell you, even though I saw his body at the funeral and all, sometimes it still seems not real to me.
—Zach, High School Junior
Having a friend die suddenly is pretty bad under any circumstances, but when the reason appears to be suicide, it can feel even worse. There is something about having a friend choose to die, especially if the circumstances were violent, that can be really hard to understand. Kids who have gone through this experience tell us that the shock of what happened can take a long time to wear off. They say the reality of what happened doesn’t really stick for a long, long time.
What they also tell us is that they can be pretty confused about what happened. They feel a lot of stuff at the same time and it can be hard to sort out. They usually need to talk about what happened with their friends even more than they need to talk to the adults in their lives. Friends seem to understand better – they knew the kid who died, probably better than most of the adults did. But they also tell us that adults can be helpful, especially the ones they trust, the people in their lives who know how to listen to kids.
So how do you help yourselves and your friends at a time like this? We took some of the suggestions we got from kids, added them to what some of the experts in the field tell us, and we made this list that may make it just a little bit easier for you to get through the next few days:
- The first, last, and middle thing to remember is that you are not alone. Sometimes you can feel really lost, alone, and isolated in the tough feelings that often stun you when you learn someone has died. Despite feeling like no one else shares what you’re experiencing, other kids – and believe it or not – other adults – often do. Take a minute to look around at the faces you see. Most of them will look as shocked as you. Realizing that you’re not alone is the first step in being able to reach out for help
- One of the ways to help yourself is to talk about how you feel. It doesn’t have to be one of those heart-to-heart conversations that gets real emotional way too quickly. It can be as simple as saying to another kid, “Wow – I’m blown away by this – what’s going on with you?” Psychologists tell us that talking about feelings can be really helpful in making them a bit less intense. Sure, in a situation like this you’re going to need to keep talking for a while, but you’re got to start somewhere. And the sooner you do, the sooner your healing will begin.
- Reach out to the people who know you. Maybe they knew your friend too, so they will really understand some of what you’re feeling without you even having to say a word. But even if they didn’t know your friend, they know you. They know how to listen and support you. Because what you’re looking for now is not someone to tell you anything to make this better. The truth is, that would be impossible. Nothing can make it better right now. What you’re looking for is someone who simply understands what this death means to you. That’s a whole lot easier to come by.
- You will probably spend a lot of time trying to figure out what happened – why your friend did this. You may even think you know, and you’ll probably hear a lot of gossip and rumors from other people who think they know too. Try to remember that the truth behind every suicide is pretty complicated – there’s always more than one reason a person chooses to take his life. And even if a lot of what you know and hear turns out to be true, all the facts that drive someone to make this desperate decision are like one of those equations in algebra with a mysterious “X.” In the suicide equation, the only person who knows what that “X” really means is the person who died. We won’t ever be able to totally figure out the real answer. Tough, but true.
- Kids tell us that when someone they know dies by suicide, they sometimes feel responsible like there was something they should have done to prevent what happened. And feeling responsible can lead to feeling guilty; this crazy belief that you really are responsible for the death. It may be hard to accept the fact that the only person any of us is responsible for is ourselves. Your friend made a choice – a bad choice – probably not really understanding what the consequences would be. But his life wasn’t yours to take away – it belonged to him.
- Let’s say that maybe you were mean to the kid who died. Maybe you teased him or bullied him or ignored him. You can’t take back what you did, but you can learn from it. It’s a pretty intense lesson but it’s incredibly important. You never want to do anything to another person that you’ll regret. End of sentence.
- You may hear other people saying mean things about your friend. Or maybe they’ll joke about the fact that he died by suicide. These kinds of responses might get you really mad. It may help to remember that a lot of people are so uncomfortable when someone dies by suicide that they say stupid, untrue, and unkind things. People can be pretty ignorant about things they don’t understand. Getting angry when you hear something like this is a natural reaction, but it isn’t necessarily a helpful one. Staying calm and reasonable is a better way to try to get people to listen to the truth.
- Sometimes, when someone we know dies by suicide, we may find ourselves thinking about suicide, too. It’s kinda like, “If he could do it, maybe I will too…” Again, normal reaction, but scary reaction. If you find yourself having these kinds of thoughts, it is really important to talk with an adult you trust. Not another kid. An adult. You wouldn’t go to a friend to fix a broken arm – you’d go to a doctor – someone wiser, with experience in fixing broken arms. Thoughts of suicide benefit from the wisdom and perspective of an adult, who can help you figure out what to do about them.
- You may want to do something to remember your friend, something to show that you cared about him and that he was important in your life. And you can probably come up with lots of cool ideas. The tricky thing with this is that there are going to be some kids in your school – maybe even kids who didn’t know your friend very well – who may be pretty misguided by this kind of stuff. They’ll see these memorials and think, “Hey, if I die, then at least the school will pay attention to me, remember me in a cool way.” It may sound crazy but it is absolutely true and contributes to something called suicide imitation or contagion. Not cool. So this is another time when you want to turn to one of those trusted adults in the school and run your ideas for remembering your friend by them. There are safe things to do that don’t feed into the contagion thing.
- Last thing to know – it does get better. Getting back close to normal takes as long as it takes. It’s different for everybody, but it does happen. It never goes away, though, the memory of what happened. But it can change your life for the better. You can use your experience with suicide to become more sensitive and compassionate to the people around you who are in that dark place where death seems like a good option. You can learn about the resources that are available to help when life seems hopeless. You can learn where to go if you need help – or where to send a friend. The bottom line? Maybe someday you will save a life.
MESSAGE FOR TEENS BY STACY HOLLINGSWORTH, COLLEGE STUDENT
I used to think that depression and suicide were things that happened to other people, that the way I approached my life somehow prevented me from becoming a victim of mental illness. I realized just how incorrect that assumption was when my own life was turned upside down by major depression.
I first noticed that something was wrong in 8th grade. Apparently, so did one of my teachers, because she asked me if anything was wrong. Unfortunately, she did so in front of the whole class. From that day on, I put up a wall to protect myself from the embarrassment of having a stigmatized illness. I wore a mask—a façade—to cover up what I was actually going through. I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my feelings with any adults in my life at that time.
My depression continued in high school. I was hoping that someone—anyone—would bring up the topics of depression and suicide, so that I wouldn’t have to. In school, there were always lessons about alcohol, drugs, and safe sex—but never ONCE were depression or suicide mentioned. Maybe, just maybe, if the adults in my life had been educated in these topics, I would have felt comfortable asking for help, and I would have been spared years of suffering.
But I’m one of the lucky ones. I did get help. I’m here today as the voice of those who are not yet being heard – the child who’s sitting in a class full of students thinking he or she is the only one feeling this way…or the teen who can’t focus in school because he or she is trapped by the isolation and pain of depression.
Help IS available—ask your friends, your resource staff at school, your parents, or call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK(1-800-273-8255). The right resources are there—look for them—because they CAN save your life!
From Mindi Worosz, a mother who lost her 17-year-old son, Conner
I am coming to you as a mother, nothing else. Hoping that in a dark moment you can stop for a few seconds to put yourself or your own mother in my shoes.
I am not one to share my feelings on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. but I really can’t keep this inside anymore. Others in my family have been able to share their feelings but I’ve been paralyzed by the pain inside me. Afraid if I open my mouth to say anything only screams of pain and anguish will come out. If Conner knew the pain we would all be in he would never have gone through with it. The pain is physical, mental and emotional. You demand answers that will never come. Since October I can physically feel my heart breaking. I am a broken person and yet I have other children and a husband that need me. So, I don’t get the luxury of staying in despair.
Living the last 6 months has been like living two separate lives. Out in front you seem strong and you get up every day to go through the next. You smile, you work, you live. But there is always the pressure inside your chest, the tears that can begin to fall at any second and the indescribable pain you feel to not have your child here with you, the ache in your soul with questions. How that life was wasted so early. Imagine losing someone you love, someone who is a part of you, imagine they were murdered and how angry you would be at the person that killed them. Now imagine the person that killed them was the same person you are mourning. Imagine on top of the pain and loss you feel, you have the confusing anger to deal with. Anger at your child, anger at God for allowing this to happen, anger at yourself because you feel there HAD to be something that you could have done to change this outcome. And then you come right back around to more pain knowing your child was hurting so badly that he felt ending his life was the only answer. The turmoil is endless. He thought life would just go on without him, and it does you can’t stop life from happening, it just continues with a huge piece of your heart gone. However, my life is filled with a streak of blinding pain within than never goes away. Each holiday or major milestone that pain only intensifies. I miss him EVERY day in way that words just can’t express.
I want you to understand that every mother has a story written when their baby is born. The story may change as they grow. You don’t have a clear vision of what job they will have or how much money they will have because none of that matters. The story is one where you can see them at different ages a toddler, a teenager, graduation, college, marriage, holding their own children and growing old with us, the parents, waiting for them in heaven. You teach them right from wrong, to be faithful to God, to be kind and show love, how to be a good friend, husband, wife etc. You may not like who they date or marry or things they’ve done during that life. They make mistakes it’s your job to teach them mistakes are ok. Mistakes are what helps us grow to become the adults we hope to see. No one expects perfection. Perfection is only what we put on ourselves to be. But you NEVER have a story where they take their own life and leave this one before you. It’s not natural it goes against everything you’ve Ever thought! I look at Conner’s little brother and his story has now changed. He won’t have the comradery and guidance that I thought he would as he grows into a young man. He no longer has a big brother to teach him about girls and how to be cool in high school, play sports with, to give him his first drink. My heart breaks for him every day.
Conner was a good son, a good friend, a kind person and funny. SO funny and lovable. He didn’t suffer from years of depression or from any other mental illness that we knew of. He was an athlete with many friends and a great employee for Top Golf. We didn’t put undue stress on him for excellent grades. We always expected him to try his best but if his best was a C that was ok. So I guess what I’m saying is that if someone like him could turn to this as an answer then no one is immune. Dark thoughts, trying times and pain from relationships happen in everyone’s life. It is life. It’s how you cope with them that matters. Talk to someone, please. You can come out of the dark into something better, but not alone.
There seems to be an epidemic involving our young lives today. Suicide is not the answer. There are so many people reaching out to students. Friends, adults, and counselors and I truly hope it continues. However, I wanted you to hear from a mother of a young man who decided suicide was the answer to his pain. If he had come to me or anyone else there would be a different outcome. His father and I would have moved heaven and earth to help him. But instead he suffered in silence and chose a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It did not have to be this way. Trust the people that love you. If dark thoughts creep in, talk about it and you can get through it without hurting so many others.
Since October there have been several suicides in Fairfax and Loudon Counties alone. I know life seems hard at times but if you have thoughts of ending your own life then you must know that your actions go so farther than that. You are desperately hurting the ones that love you and need you. I’ve lost a son, a friend and a future that should have been. If you find yourself thinking life would go on without you like you were never here, you are wrong. It changes the story of so many lives. Pause for a minute and think about your parents, your siblings, your grandparents and all the people that love you. Their pain continues long after you leave.
Hoping another mother never feels this way,
The mission of ConnerStrong Foundation (CSF) is to reduce the number of youth suicides and attempted suicides by encouraging public awareness, changing the culture and discussion about suicide, and working on a dynamic shift on how we deal with and address the issues our teens and young adults face. While the development and promotion of educational training programs and seminars is wonderful, we cannot affect such changes until we understand the “Why” and the “What”.
The concept of a youth council is to bring together middle age, teens and young adults to help us better understand the direction and mission we need to engage in. The direction of our programs and efforts are best directed to those areas that matter. By soliciting people in these age groups on a voluntary basis, we hope to tap into the minds and hearts of those we are trying to save.
This council will provide us with a firsthand glimpse into the “Why & What” that these people face. The youth council will also be a critical part of our initiatives such as our roundtables, Out of Darkness Walks, social media campaigns, and fundraising. The CSF Youth Council plays a critical part in helping our organization fulfill the needs of our mission. As the Youth Council’s agenda are self-set by students just like you, it’s imperative that those applying have a passion and commitment to being an active member. Youth Council members can expect to participate in:
- Fundraising events;
- Online social media campaigns;
- Out of Darkness Walks
- CSF Events