- We spend time worrying about whether we have others’ approval or how we can get it
- We spend time trying to convince others that our way is right and their way is wrong
- We get caught up in thinking and behavior patterns of an older version of ourselves
- We see others according to our labels and judgements of them, rather than who they really are
- Everyone has their own path that is right and true for them. We all have a way of living and approaching each day that works for us. And it’s natural for us to want others, especially those we love, to follow our path too. It’s important to recognize though, that trying to convince others that our way is best, will usually lead to disappointment. On the contrary, change can surprisingly and naturally occur in others when we stay true to our own path, without trying to change a thing about theirs. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay too.
- We can still show love to others when we disagree with their way. Just because we don’t agree with how someone else lives their life, it doesn’t mean we have to change how we interact with them and whether or not we extend love and care towards them. Rather than being threatened, dismayed or frustrated by our differences, we can celebrate them.
- Rather than trying to change others, focus on yourself. We empower ourselves when we shift attention away from how others live, and place our awareness on our own lives.
Mental Health Problems Are TreatableFirst of all, it is imperative to understand that mental health conditions can be treated. You can speak to a pediatrician, the local health department, the school’s representatives, and health care professionals regarding the treatment options available to you. This requires the understanding that mental health isn’t an individual issue, but it’s a family issue and the support of family is strongly encouraged and accepted. This is important for the teen to open his or her heart to proper treatment and counseling.
Keeping an Eye Open: Danger Signs to Look Out ForExcessive sleeping that is beyond the typical teenage fatigue. This could indicate substance abuse or depression.
- Loss of self-esteem
- Unexpected decline in their academic performance
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Significant personality shifts, such as excessive anger and aggressiveness
Key Mental Health Issues for TeensSome of the key mental health issues that teens need to be monitored for are:
- Eating disorders
- Drug abuse
- Changes in the sleeping patterns
- Excessive moodiness and/or unexpected weeping
- Eating habits that cause weight gain/loss
- Excessive secrecy or paranoia
- Excessive isolation
- Abandonment of social groups and friends
- Obsessive concerns for body image
- Anorexia – averting food and significant changes in their eating habits.
- Bulimia – forced vomiting after eating food. You need to be on the lookout for significant weight loss without any changes in their eating habits.
30 Seconds a Day to Self-EsteemThis is a daily assignment and a 24 hour commitment you make with yourself. You do it first thing in the morning after your morning mirror routine in the bathroom – brushing your teeth, getting your hair did by self, and making sure you look good in those expensive clothes you want to wear because you’re thinking about acceptance of others. Listen, my first suggestion is this: As you look in the mirror are you more concerned about how you look because others will judge you or are you more concerned about who you are? How you look is what others see. Who you are is what you see. How you look is cause for being judged by others. Regardless, people will judge you and you have to accept that. Who you are is the choice you make for yourself and nobody can take that away from you. You choose you and when you pay attention to who you are, how you look will take care of itself. I ask this question in every speaking engagement and the response will astound you. “Are you as beautiful on the inside as I see you on the outside?”, is the question I ask. Everyone that is being honest with me and themselves says, “No.” or “I don’t know.” or, they look at me with a stare and they’re embarrassed to answer. Every middle school assembly and high school assembly, every school assembly or conference I speak at, I ask this question and always get the same response. Why? Because when we are young we want to be accepted more than we want to accept ourselves. We all live with a mask trying to be who others want us to be. Look in the mirror and start to be comfortable with who you are. Then, how you look will take care of itself.
STEP 1 – Self Esteem
So, in your daily routine I want you to address yourself in the mirror after you’ve brushed your teeth and checked how you look – hair and clothes. Empty handed and a couple of deep breaths, I want you to look into your eyes and say this:
“I am smart. I am strong. I am pretty/handsome (if you’re a guy). I can do anything I put my mind to.”
Say it again . . . .
“I am smart. I am strong. I am pretty/handsome (if you’re a guy). I can do anything I put my mind to.”
You have to look at yourself and believe it. You can’t just say it and go through the motions of speaking words. You have to believe the words you speak. You are all alone. I need you to look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself what you need to say. Be strong and positive. At first, this will be hard, but keep on doing it.
STEP 2 – Answer the Questions
After you’ve said, “I am smart. I am strong. I am pretty/handsome (if you’re a guy). I can do anything I put my mind to.”, I want you to look at yourself and ask if what people might be saying is true.
If someone says you dress funny. Can that be true? Do you dress differently than others? Does it cause unwanted attention? How about someone says you’re fat. Are you fat? Can you lose weight? Are you unhealthy? Do you have unhealthy habits?
What else are people saying? Do they make fun of you because of your grades? Could it be true that you don’t apply yourself, do your homework, come to school late or don’t care?
You get the point here, right?
STEP 3 – Choose To Change
You spent a few seconds looking at yourself in the mirror and saying, “I am smart. I am strong. I am pretty/handsome (if you’re a guy). I can do anything I put my mind to.”
You’ve then addressed some negative things that people might say to you and you’ve found somethings to be true. Now you choose to make changes in your behavior.
Behavioral Change means taking Action. Taking Action requires Motivation. Motivation and Action means RESULTS which means CHANGES because of your Behavior!
You can do this.
Step 4 – Take Action!
You write down some truths of what others might say. Only is you can agree with the facts and truths of what is said. Don’t change for anyone. Choose to change for yourself. Now you’ve addressed the truths and you choose to take action.
You’ve addressed yourself in the mirror.
You’ve made positive comments and self talk. You believe yourself.
You’ve asked the questions you’ve needed to ask. You’ve addressed the truth and sometimes the truth hurts.
Now you are choosing to take action and committing to yourself to make changes for you only.
Throughout the day, you work on what needs to be addressed.
- Weight – Choose healthy behaviors. Exercise. Log your food intake in MyFitnessPal or write it down. Speak to a nutritionist. Ask questions about protein, sugars, carbs, fat, exercise, and health. Choose to change.
- Appearance – Are you wearing glasses that are out of date? Are you wearing clothes too small or too big? What is it about your appearance? Your hair? Your hygiene? What is it? Choose to address these issues one at a time. Get new clothes. Wash and fold your clothes. Change how you wear your hair? Bathe regularly (That’s a great idea!) Remember to do this for yourself.
- Choices – Sometimes we act out to be accepted. We want to get a laugh from others. Choose to live in the present and choose your words and actions carefully. Don’t act out for attention. Think before you speak. Think before you do something. Think! TAKE TIME TO THINK is a motto I use everyday.
Understanding GriefThe shock and grief that consumes you after you lose someone to suicide is overwhelming. It can feel like you have fallen into a deep hole and will never be able to get out. These are natural feelings which will likely change as you move through the grieving process. No two people experience loss in the same way. Some may experience physical symptoms such as headaches or changes in appetite and/or sleeping patterns. A person in grief may also experience some or all of the following feelings:
- SHOCK: “I feel numb.” Feelings of being dazed or detached are a common response to trauma. Shock can protect the mind from becoming completely overwhelmed, allowing the person to function.
- DENIAL: “I feel fine.” Sometimes people can consciously or unconsciously refuse to accept the facts and information about another’s death. This process can be even more challenging when there is little information or explanation about a loved one’s suicide. Eventually, as you gather information and accept that you may not be able to know everything, you can begin to process the reality of this tragic event and all the emotions that come with it. In time, however, our minds become more able to analyze the tragic event, and this allows the denial to give way to less troubling emotions.
- GUILT: “I think it was my fault.” Feelings of guilt following a suicide are very common. Guilt comes from the mistaken belief that we should have, or could have, prevented the death from happening. Guilt can also arise if there are un-reconciled issues with the deceased or regret about things said or not said. In truth, no person can predict the future, nor can they know all the reasons for another person’s actions. It is human nature to blame oneself when experiencing a loss, rather than accepting the truth that some things were out of our control.
- SADNESS: “Why bother with anything?” Once the initial reactions to the death by suicide have lessened in intensity, feelings of sadness and depression can move to the forefront. These feelings can be present for some time and can, at times, be triggered by memories and reminders of the loved one who was lost. Feelings of hopelessness, frustration, bitterness, and self-pity are all common when dealing with a loss of a loved one. Typically, you gradually learn to accept the loss and embrace both your happy and sad memories.
- ANGER: “How could they do this to me?” Feelings of anger towards the person you have lost can arise. Many who mourn feel a sense of abandonment. Others feel anger towards a real or perceived culprit. These feelings can be complex and distressing when they are directed at the person who died. It is important to know that it is possible to both be angry with someone, and to still hold them dear in your heart. Sometimes anger is needed before you can accept the reality of the loss.
- ACCEPTANCE: “I can miss them and still continue living.” The ultimate goal of healing is to accept the tragic event as something that could not have been prevented and cannot be changed. Acceptance is not the same as forgetting. Instead, acceptance is learning to live again and to be able to reopen your heart, while still remembering the person who has passed away.
What Makes Suicide DifferentLosing a friend or loved one is never easy. However, when you lose someone to suicide, it can feel different from other types of loss. Several circumstances can make death by suicide different, making the healing process more challenging. STIGMA AND ISOLATION: Talking about suicide can be difficult for those who have experienced the loss. Different cultures view suicide in different ways, and sometimes discussing it can be a challenge. This can also be made more difficult when the act of suicide conflicts with religious views. Suicide can be isolating as communities of friends each struggle differently to make sense of the loss they all experienced. Finding the right people in your support network who are able to help you experience your loss is important. Sometimes, this may mean seeking professional help in order to help you cope with your loss. In those situations it is recommended that you contact a counselor, mental health professional, or find a trusted therapist in the community. MIXED EMOTIONS: After a death by illness or natural causes, the bereaved’ s feelings may be less complicated than when the death is by suicide. When a death is by suicide, you might both mourn the person’s passing while also hold intense feelings about the circumstances of their death. Feelings such as anger, abandonment, and rejection can all occur after a suicide as well as positive feelings about the deceased. Sorting through all of these diverse feelings can make the healing process more challenging. NEEDING TO UNDERSTAND WHY: Understanding the circumstances of a death by suicide can sometimes lead us to asking “Why?” You may second guess actions, wish that you had noticed signs earlier, or wonder how you could have acted differently. This need to understand “why” may be a difficult path, as the circumstances surrounding the loved one’s death could be unclear or not easily known. Some questions may never be answered, while you may find other answers that make sense. Sometimes you will find answers to your questions, while other times, you must learn to accept the fact that there are some things no one can know. RISK FOR SURVIVORS: People who have recently experienced a loss by suicide are at increased risk for having suicidal thoughts themselves. After experiencing the loss of a loved one, it’s not uncommon to wish you were dead or to feel like the pain is unbearable. Remember that having suicidal thoughts does not mean that you will act on them. These feelings and thoughts will likely decrease over time, but if you find them too intense, or if you’re considering putting your thoughts into action, seek support from a mental health professional, counselor, trusted adult, or call 911 immediately. The Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Healthy Ways to Cope with Grief and LossYou will never “get over” the loss you’ve experienced, but you can “get through” it. You have been changed by this loss, but you can learn how to survive, even grow, from this challenge. The following are suggestions for healing in healthy ways: SEEK SUPPORT: It’s very important to find people in your life who are good listeners, so you can turn to someone when you need extra support. You may find it helpful to talk to a friend, family member, mental health professional or spiritual advisor. Some find joining a support group helpful since each person will be able to relate in different ways to your experience. Whatever support looks like for you, it’s important to reach out for help when you feel like you need it. BE PATIENT: Just as you may be feeling a range of emotions, people around you may also be sorting through their feelings. Be patient with yourself and others: those who are supportive of you as well as those who do not seem to understand. Limit your contact with those who tell you how to feel and what to think. Take time to heal. Set limits for yourself, and give yourself permission to say “no” to things that may come your way. It’s difficult to make decisions when you’re feeling overwhelmed; you may decide it’s best to put off important decisions until you feel ready to make them. STAY PRESENT: Take each moment as it comes. That way, you can better accept whatever you’re feeling and be able to respond in the way that is most helpful to you. Maybe you would benefit from calling your best friend. Maybe journaling would help you let go of your thoughts for now. Learning mindfulness or relaxation techniques like deep breathing can help you stay present and experience your emotions without feeling overwhelmed. Your local community may have a Mindfulness Training Program where you can learn to be present and meditate. EXPRESS YOURSELF: You can choose to tell others how you’re feeling or acknowledge your feelings privately. If you don’t feel like talking, you can set aside time each day to grieve. Just make sure you leave enough time to do something pleasantly distracting before bed. Either way, acknowledging your experiences helps. ALLOW YOURSELF TO HAVE FUN: Social events or pleasant activities can provide relaxation and distraction. Laughter heals, and it’s also OK if you cry. Get back to things you enjoyed and make it a priority. ESTABLISH ROUTINE: Even getting dressed may seem challenging, but it’s important to reestablish routine as soon as you can. Building in some structure can help you manage your grief and provide a sense of normalcy and hope. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF: Eat as well as you can, exercise when you can, and avoid alcohol and other drugs that will make it harder for you to work through your feelings. ** Jeff Yalden is a suicide prevention specialist who works with education, high schools, middle schools, parents, and communities to deal with a loss and the grieving process. For more information on Jeff and his inspirational motivational school assemblies, please visit www.JeffYalden.com.
- The parents were open to who their daughter was and respected her emotions and feelings
- Her parents supported her and learned more about why she felt this way
- Leelah chose to get help with her own emotions and feelings by asking to see a professional therapist
- The family chose to see a therapist together
- Society wasn’t so judgemental
- People would stop thinking it’s their way or no way
- People would become more open-minded and accepting
- We would judge less and forgive more
- The right people had the courage to help Leelah speak to the right (professional) people
- She felt loved and not judged