On November 13, 2010, a mother who lives in the general area that I do discovered what has to be the most horrifying sight of her life—her 14-year-old daughter hanging from the ceiling of their basement. The teen was rushed to ICU, but eventually died of her injuries from the hanging. This girl was the daughter of Luke Richardson, assistant coach of the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey League. The family decided to try to help lift the veil from the subject of teen suicide and in the weeks following the release of the story through local media, hundreds of students came forward for help. To lose a child to an accident is one thing, but to lose a child because she took her own life gives whole new meaning to the word agonizing.
The Unfortunate Truth
The Richardson family is not alone. Alarmingly, “suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds, and fourth among those in the younger age group, according to Statistics Canada” (The Globe and Mail). Scary. While suicide is often the biggest indicator that a child may have mental health issues or an undiagnosed mental illness, it is not the only mental condition that can affect a child.
“About 20 percent of American children suffer from a diagnosable mental illness during a given year, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. Further, nearly 5 million American children and adolescents suffer from a serious mental illness (one that significantly interferes with their day-to-day life)” (www.webmd.com).
Such mental illnesses or conditions include:
• Anxiety disorders
• Disruptive behavior disorders
• Pervasive developmental disorders (eg: autism, Asperger's)
• Eating disorders
• Learning and communication disorders
• Affective (mood) disorders
• Tic (repetitive movements or sounds) disorders (eg: Tourette syndrome)
Each of us can probably identify a time when we felt confused by the world around us, the people, the situations. Overwhelmed by what we saw and felt about what was happening around us.