My son, 17, has had anxiety his entire life. The past few months he’d been facing depression and had been bringing it up in passing. A girl he invested his heart in for the past year told him she wasn’t interested in him. He has been sad since then; I figured he’d get over it in a few weeks. He didn’t.
He’s always had a flair for the dramatic so at first, we thought he just wanted attention. We started to realize it was getting more serious when he started to lose interest in activities, isolate himself and sleep as much as possible.
Two weeks ago, we had an intervention when he called our good friend/neighbor and mentioned suicide. My husband, son, and neighbor rallied around him until 3:00 a.m.. I thank God, he had the courage to call our friend and ask for help. Not everyone would do that. Not every family would listen.
He asked me if he could be checked into a hospital because he didn’t trust himself to stay safe. We went to Nationwide Children’s Hospital right away. He was evaluated and admitted for a two-night stay. There was a waitlist for the Youth Crisis Center and it was not likely that he’d get a room by the time we were discharged on Tuesday. I called on my family and friends for prayer. The next day we got a call that a bed was open in the Youth Crisis center. I considered that a miracle.
He underwent three days of intense therapy, both individual and family. He came up with a safe plan. He made a chart of triggers and a chart of how to counteract the triggers. I found out he had been cutting himself and had a plan of three different ways to kill himself. He had been in a bus accident a couple weeks prior and thought God was giving him a sign that he shouldn’t be alive. At that moment, nothing else mattered but keeping him safe and getting him well. I didn’t care about work, I didn’t care about birthday parties for friends, I didn’t care that my house needed cleaned, I didn’t care about what people thought of me (a personal battle I fight daily). I didn’t want to leave his side.
After a week of therapy, we were linked to counseling. We made some life changes. I had to safe-proof my house. Nothing sharp around, no medicines, no alcohol. Everything had to be hidden. No isolation in his room on the lower level. Family game night every Sunday no matter what. He quit his job where the girl works. Some doors have opened for him to fulfill his culinary dream and he will be getting a new job.
We spend time together every single day as a family.
All the things that used to consume me no longer do. My career was so important to me. It’s no longer important. A job is a job and there are a million of them out there. I only have one family.
Depression is real. Suicide and self-harm is real. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. The most important thing is to provide support to those who are experiencing it and to not make them feel guilty for what they are feeling. My son kept apologizing over and over for ‘causing problems.’ I assured him over and over that we don’t care what it takes, we are going to get him the care he needs to get better.
I’m fortunate enough to work for a company that promotes Family First. I was at the hospital with him for a week, no questions asked. I can leave early and work remotely in the afternoons so my son is not alone until he is well.
The affects this has had on my family have been terrible. My younger son has been experiencing panic attacks, as have I. We have a long road ahead but we will make it.
I encourage you all to listen to your kids, have open dialog, ask the tough questions and be strong when they answer. Cry in the closet if you must. Suicide in kids between the ages of 10-19 is one of the leading causes of death for our youth. We must be vigilant and listen, encourage, and help them feel hopeful.
If you are in the Columbus area and are going through this, I highly recommend the Youth Crisis Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The care the whole family received was wonderful.
Always remember, you are not alone in this.