For få dage siden begik en 12-årig dreng selvmord på min datters skole. Og ja, det sker, at helt unge begår selvmord – også oftere end mange af os måske går rundt og tror. Det skal der fokus på – så vi kan gøre noget ved det.
“Mom, we’re in the lockdown. An ambulance is on site and the police are inspecting our lockers.“
A few days ago, a 12-year-old boy committed suicide at my daughter’s school. Yes, children do commit suicide – more often than we think. We need to talk about that – so we can do something about it.
Children commit suicide. More often than many of us might think.
Just writing this makes everything in my gut wrench. My stomach tightens, I feel despair, anxiety and fear.
The other day we received a brief email from my daughter’s school. “There is a health-related situation at your child´s school at the moment.” This cryptic message made my alarm clock go off, and I texted a quick message to my daughter, “Are you okay? Should I come and pick you up?”
“I’m ok. People say it was a heart failure caused by an overdose, but teachers aren´t saying anyting,” my daughter replied via text message.
And then my panic set in, but I couldn´t show her that. “Don t listen to rumors,” I wrote after she told me that police was systematically going through students’ lockers.
»We know nothing, waiting for more info. I’m with friends and am ok,” my levelled headed daughter texted me. She was able to stay calmer than her mother.
That evening we received a message that a student had passed away at her middle school. Afterwards, the rumors flourished among the students. He was suffocated, it was an overdose, could it be xxx or xxx?
The next day we received a message that the student had passed away as a result of suicide.
He was 12 years old. My daughter told me, everyone called him Prince, because he was always so well dressed. He was in “the gifted program” for highly intelligent children, joked with everyone, had many friends and was well-liked. In other words, he was not a student who would normally be seen as exposed due to bullying, lack of intellect, physical characteristics, etc.
That same week, all students at the middle school had undergone a program they call SOS – Signs Of Suicide, which focuses on seeing signs in young people at risk of suicide and informing them where they can get help. And that same week, the boy and my daughter attended a Rainbow Meeting, a meeting for LGTBQIA + people.
The next day, he committed suicide in one of the school toilets. Now all the hooks on the inside of the school stalls in the bathroom have been removed.
The numbers of suicides in this age group in Denmark and in the USA are comparable. Fortunately, suicides in this group are rare, however, a person under 13 commits suicide every five days in the United States. In Denmark, two to three young people under the age of 15 commit suicide every year. Over 75% in the age group are boys.
All weekend, my daughter has been watching baking shows and reading Harry Potter. I read her behavior as a need to reach back to childhood. On Monday, I had to pick up my 11-year-old son because he had broken down in tears in his classroom. His teacher and the school principal cried at the morning meeting and it all became too overwhelming for my son. As a fifth grade teacher, my son’s teacher taught the boy in her classroom two years ago.
We have contacted our family therapist, signed up for a workshop for survivors and are trying to do what we can to tell our children that we are here for them. But it’s hard not to let my own “shit” scarred inner self run wild. My anxiety cannot take president over the role I have to put at the top as a mother of two children.
“It’s as if I’ve been introduced to an adult world from one day to the next. Yesterday I was a big kid, today I have to deal with a world I am not ready for,” my daughter told me.
What do you say when you are hugging your children while tears run down your cheeks? After all, there is nothing that can describe the feelings of fear and sadness that you as a parent experience. But I have to tell myself, that my feelings are not theirs, and my feelings should not take over. It is important to create a space for the children, an emotional safe room to be in around us adults.
So I grapple with to things. I reach out to them with my adult perspective while being at eye level and letting them have their feelings in their world which is not yet an adult one. And it’s hard. “Life is never so black that there is no light ahead. There is always help to find, from us or other adults you trust,” I say, hoping that the straws I grasp for are the right ones for them to hear.
There is not much research on suicide by young people under 13, but the numbers show that suicides in this age group are on the rise.
Last Friday, that fact came way too close to our and my children’s lives here in the United States. But the problem is global. All over the world, children are struggling mentally, in Svendborg and in Seattle, in Soul and in Sao Paulo.
Monday morning, there was a sea of flowers around the flagpole at my daughter’s school. Many of the children wore black clothing, several of them had written cards which they lay down by the bouquets. All employees in the school district who have had the slightest training relevant to situations like this, had been called in and were ready to receive the children. Yet only two-thirds of the school’s students turned up for class. The teachers tried their best to make the school day bearable, and the school councilor did outreach work to the students.
For this young boy´s suicide to happen in a week where the students learned about recognizing the signs of suicide and where many of them participated in a rainbow meeting, something has gone terribly wrong. How a young boy, just 12 years ole, could end up lifeless in a school bathroom, I will never fully understand.
But despite good intentions of creating a space for conversation, to inform and to reach out, a family lost their son. Information about suicide and other initiatives related to children’s identity must be reviewed and evaluated. Perhaps the teaching material is not up to date? I am sure, we can all agree that something went wrong.
I’m not blaming anyone. I’m just saying that when such a tragedy can happen, there is something that could have been handled differently to give this young boy help he needed.
Because, sadly, it happens that very young people commit suicide – and it happens more often than many of us might think. This fact needs to be addressed – so we can do something about it.