By Valerie Minard
Last December, Lynn Uddin from Ocean City, NJ, received the kind of news any mother would dread. Her 16 year-old daughter, Maliha, after years of feeling depressed and bullied about her Islamic faith, had committed suicide.
Cases like Maliha’s are not unusual. In the US, suicide is the third most common cause of death for 15 to 19 year olds. Although girls tend to think about, plan, and attempt suicide more than boys, in fact, boys actually follow through at a higher rate. Unfortunately, for every teen death, many others are planned or attempted in secret.
According to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), 90 percent of suicides are a result of a mental illness like depression. Alcohol and drug use are often contributing factors.
Teen suicide prevention groups are, however, making a difference. According to Ann Haas, senior director of education and prevention at the AFSP in New York, the teen groups often help peers develop better coping skills to handle emotional crises. In addition, the programs teach teens to turn to a friend, mentor, mental health provider, spiritual resource, or trusted adult during challenging times.
But what about the teens who suffer in silence or are not ready to turn to a teen suicide prevention group or trusted adult? I can’t answer for others but in my case, I found my connection to the Divine was a life saver during a time when I felt there was no one in whom to confide.
Back towards the end of my freshman year, I panicked about how I was to pay for the coming year’s college tuition. My parent’s had lost their savings through a bad business deal. It seemed like all the existing financial resources had been tapped. I remember walking across campus feeling totally forlorn, not seeing any solution or future for myself. The temptation to give in to destructive thoughts and escape was strong.
But, just at that point, it seemed like all the things I’d learned during my years in a Christian Science Sunday school kicked in. The ideas that saved me went along these lines…
•“Valerie, death is not a friend. God gives you life and God is good. He/She made you with all the qualities and spiritual resources you need. Your Creator has not forsaken you.
•These negative thoughts are not your thoughts. They are lies about your worth and purpose for existing, and you don’t need to listen to them. The ideas God gives you are good. Destructive thoughts are not good. The Bible says, “‘For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the LORD. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.’”
•God is Spirit and is eternal. Therefore, as the child and image of God, your identity will continue with or without this body because God is your Life. Heaven is not a place you have to die into so things will get better. Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is within you, or within consciousness. What you need to change is not your circumstances but your thought about them.”
With those powerful ideas, the mental storm subsided. The dark thoughts began to disappear as I began to trust that there would be an answer even though I didn’t know the outcome. I no longer felt forsaken or at risk.
It turned out that new funds were found to pay tuition for the remaining three years, even without my family’s help. Later, when I went to graduate school, a research assistantship paid for all my expenses.
There may be times in our life when things look very bleak. But even if you feel you can’t find human help, there is no need to suffer in silence. Right in the middle of the turmoil, divine help is at hand to lift you up from the pit. You have the right and ability to squash destructive suggestions because they are not from your true source of life. Standing up to them removes fear, reestablishes self-worth, and can guide you toward practical solutions with a renewed sense of peace.