The Student News Site of Kinnelon High School

Colt Chronicle

The Student News Site of Kinnelon High School

Colt Chronicle

The Student News Site of Kinnelon High School

Colt Chronicle

Suicide Is Not Simple

Teenage suicide is on the rise; awareness is key.
Kristina Haviland
Mental health resource located on Mrs. Wysocki’s door between the two gyms.

Adviser’s Note: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this opinion article belong solely to the author and do not reflect the view of The Colt Chronicle Staff, Kinnelon High School, or its students and staff members.

Suicide is selfish. Just get over it. Plenty of other people have it worse. You are too young to be depressed.” 

The teen suicide rate has been on the rise for the last decade, yet there is no definite cause as to why. Risk factors include substance abuse, bullying, mental illness, family history of suicide, and violence. However, simply identifying these factors does not do any justice to the alarming number of suicides each year.

 According to New In Health, in the United States, suicide is now the second leading cause of death for teens and young adults. There is no expert consensus about the causes of this mental-health crisis, but doctors, parents, families, and friends already know this. What is more important to understand is the stigma and negativity around the topic, so that we can attempt to break it. 

Kelsey Isman, a senior at Wesleyan University in Connecticut is a Campus Captain Administrator for The Hidden Opponent, an organization that advocates for mental health for student-athletes. She says, “Promoting awareness about suicide and acknowledging that it is a problem is the first step. You don’t know what is going on with someone until you really can understand what they are going through; a smile can be blocking something a lot deeper.”

You don’t know what is going on with someone until you really can understand what they are going through; a smile can be blocking something a lot deeper.”

— Kelsey Isman

Isman shares that she, too, has dealt with anxiety and depression. “I have had my own experience with mental health and mental illness, and I have a couple different chronic illnesses and injuries which made participating in college level swimming stressful and difficult at times.”

As an athlete and full-time student, Isman faced constant external pressure. She says, “The competitive attitude that athletes are encouraged to have as we play sports and go through high school is often seen as you have to push through, and the grind never stops. But sometimes, the grind has to stop in order to take time for yourself and support your health.” Isman has worked with a therapist and taken medication to help cope with her struggles.

For many struggling students, it can be extremely difficult to seek help, which can often make matters worse. Isman says, “Even though in my head it didn’t seem like a lot, I was really going through something. Coming to terms with myself, especially during Covid, informed me that it was not something that I was able to cope with on my own.”

Another teenager, Kate Riederich from Florida, has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression. She says, “My experience with mental health has made me feel isolated, lonely, and overall exhausted. I feel that I am constantly trying to put a mask on to hide these from people.”

Persistent misunderstandings about suicide and mental health disorders can stand in the way of fully accepting help from professionals. Riederich says, “The biggest challenge for me was that once I asked for help I had to actually accept the help given to me and I was in fear that people would think I was weak.”

Many people believe that once they admit to others that they have a mental illness, they get put into a standard. Reiderich says, “ If you’re not being being put into a mental hospital or attempting suicide, then its not as bad and you should get over it; but if you are doing those things then you are seen as fragile and people will treat you as a caged animal more than a human.”

One way to fight this worldwide stigma is by embracing vulnerability. Isman says, “Being authentic online and on social media can open many peoples eyes to seek help in what they are going through.” 

It is okay to say ‘I need to talk to somebody,’ that is not ever a crime.”

— David Mango

Riederich agrees to this, “The most helpful thing for me has been watching celebrities and influencers speak out about their mental health; knowing that even someone that could seem to have a ‘perfect’ life could also struggle, meaning that I wasn’t alone.”

However, an obstacle that stands in the way of people seeking help is the lack of readiness to resources. Isman says, “I’ve heard from people who want to find a therapist but their insurance won’t cover it, or they don’t know who to call, or they called and there was a waiting list and they cant wait, so to have that information readily available can help students not get to that point where its a temporary problem, with a very permanent solution.”

Infographic by Kristina Haviland

It is crucial for young adults to know that suicide does not have to be the answer. Isman says, “Even in some moments when it feels like things could not get any worse, it’s not always going to feel like that. You have to learn to rewire your brain to ignore those thoughts and a therapist can help you do that.”

Even if students are unsure of what they need, reaching out to a professional is a great first step. At Kinnelon High School, Danielle Wysocki, Student Assistance Counselor says, “Students can reach out to their school counselors, the student assistance counselor, or case managers. We also have CarePlus available in the building where students can be referred linking them to in school therapeutic services.”

In addition to this, Wysocki says, “KHS promotes awareness regarding mental health throughout multiple academic curricula, health class, and via the Give Back Club and School Newspaper.”

However, with awareness there needs to be action. Superintendent David Mango says, “While we have our guidance counselors, I think our best advocates are our student body because they are at the heart of it. At my past schools, the student council would actually come and do presentations to the Board of Education, we went on a radio show together to talk about teen suicide, and how HIB, social media, and this world of all electronics, impacts ten times more than it ever has, and how that relates to issues like drug overdose, feelings of depression, increased anxiety, school violence, and workplace violence.”

With this, Mango wants to implement similar events into KHS. He says, “I would like to like to now steer into those harder conversations about teen suicide and HIB; I would like next year when we are doing different kinds of presentations, for our student council to come with me and present to the public and livestream about all of these issues.”

Mango has a daughter in middle school, he says, “It definitely raises my level of concern because if we take a step back 40 years ago when I was my daughters current age, it was much different.”

As social media and internet use increases, it is our job to keep up with the rapidly changing environment. Mango says, “We as educators have to lead by example, you have to have conversations at home, you have to look for the warning signs, you have to know when your child is upset or when they’re not or when they’re hiding.”

Success is never final, and failure is not fatal.”

— David Mango

Once the stigma around mental health is reduced and vulnerability on the internet is embraced, then teenagers can get the help they need much faster. Isman says, “If your problems are causing you so much pain and hardship, that in itself is worthy of seeking help. That moment of realizing you need help could come so much quicker to people if we could reduce the stigma around needing and wanting help.”

It is important for students to be aware that this problem is not stopping anytime soon. Mango says, “We cannot turn away from it. It doesn’t matter how strong people are, we all have our moments and things happen in our lives. It is all very real. When someone can say out loud ‘I’m not feeling good’ or ‘I’m feeling a certain way’ or ‘I’m suffering from this,’ that’s when friends, family, and school come together to unite as one. It is okay to say ‘I need to talk to somebody,’ that is not ever a crime.”

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