“Can I borrow your belt Anna?”
These are the words running through the mother’s mind as she replays the moments of the last 24 hours. Her fun loving, straight A student, rep soccer playing daughter, gone forever.
That morning, mom had left to walk the dog. Her teen daughter Melissa, was sleeping in and deserved a rest, so mom slipped out quietly.
Hours later when she still wasn’t up, mom went to check on her.
The horrific scene is burned into her mind. Her daughter was hanging with the belt she had borrowed from her sister. Dead. Gone.
I met this family in the emergency department several years ago. They were blind-sided by their daughter’s suicide. Were there signs they had missed? I think about them as I see teen after teen come with anxiety or depression. The pressures growing up today, are tremendous. A mean comment 30 years ago would be forgotten in a week; today teens bully via social media. The comments linger for months, forever there, for all to see. Girls feel enormous pressure not only to look like air brushed celebrities but now, the popular kid in high school posting her photos is a cause of self-doubt.
One by one, I try to help them make sense of this world they live in. Try to get their self-esteem to be about their own accomplishments rather than the comments of acquaintances online. I don’t want to miss seeing the signs. I don’t want another Melissa.
The efforts pay off in individual moments.
“Thank you” says one 17 year old girl, as I sew up her laceration. “You don’t remember me but I came here last year after swallowing a bunch of pills. You talked to me without judgment. You got me to see all the people in my life who would miss me and who really matter. It was hard, but I got the help I needed and I’m doing so much better. I thought you should know”.
I say a prayer of thanks in my mind. Melissa has helped another girl find her courage.