By Lori Draz and Julianna Poupard
Welcome to Teen Scene, written by the great students of our area. Each month, our young authors write, in their own voice, stories that will educate and inform fellow students and parents about a variety of topics. We’d love to hear from you and we’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry – let’s just get to sharing.
This month, 18-year-old Julianna Poupard – a senior in Ranney School’s Class of 2017, editor of the Ranney School student newspaper, The Torch, and captain of the Shore Conference B Central Division Champion Varsity Girls’ Tennis Team – takes on the tough subject of teen suicide. With all the smiles and celebrations of the holiday season, we must remember that it can also be a tremendously difficult time for many people. While some may hide their conditions from friends and family, there are signs that may be visible. Julianna found herself having to make a very hard decision when a friend admitted she might be suicidal. Here is Julianna’s story.
The adolescent years are tough for anybody. Teenagers struggle with insecurity, strains in family relationships, stress, expectations, and so much more. Unfortunately, this can lead teenagers to develop a variety of mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety that can lead to suicidal thoughts. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in teenagers. However, when students are talked to in school and by parents, they often don’t take the matter seriously. I know when I heard the warnings about risks, it was easy to dismiss as something that happens to other people.
I had this same mentality entering middle school, so I was caught completely off guard when my best friend started to exhibit symptoms. At the time, I didn’t know what the signs of depression and suicide were. She constantly talked about feeling hopeless, lost, and sad. She always felt sick and she started to lose interest in all of the things I knew she loved. She would tell me about issues she dealt with at home and about bullying problems at school. Finally, she told me that she had almost killed herself one night and was planning to try again. I was so scared. I couldn’t imagine losing my best friend. So, I racked my brain for what to do. Finally, in a fit of tears, I told my parents. They called her parents and the school. The next day, she came up to me, furious, telling me it was my fault and that I was a terrible friend. This terrified me. I felt awful and regretted saying anything. I had broken her trust. However, she was taken out of school and got help. I lost a friend that day, but I saved a life.
I had never seen suicide as a reality before that experience. Sure, I heard about it in the news and from the occasional PSA, but it just seemed like a scary bedtime story. Going through that made it so real, and it ignited a passion for helping others. I didn’t speak to her for years after she got help, but just this past year, she reached out to me. She wanted to talk about it and find closure. She is much better and really making a life for herself. I couldn’t help but feel a little bit responsible, and it made me so happy to see her doing so well.
This experience led me to join the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide Youth Council, which is a group of Monmouth and Ocean County students dedicated to raising awareness for teen suicide and doing whatever we can to help those in need. I have grown stronger as a person and learned so much from the students around me.
If you are going through something, or having thoughts of suicide, know that you are not alone in your struggles. Talk with a friend, confide in a trusted adult, or call a helpline. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential support, 24/7, for people in distress, and prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, along with the best practices for professionals. The number to call is 1-800-273-8255.
If you know someone that is struggling, remember that their life is in jeopardy. Time is of the essence. You never know when it will be too late. Don’t make any judgements or dismiss it as drama and overreaction. The most important thing that you have to do is tell a trusted adult. It can be your parents, a friend’s parents, your guidance counselor, your history teacher…anybody! Just don’t try to handle it on your own. You may worry that this person will be mad at you, like my friend was, but that is a risk you have to take. I would much rather have my friend hate me and be alive, than be dead. By telling an adult that you trust will do something to help, you are giving this person the chance to live a long and happy life. Make their life your number one priority. Act on your instincts, trust your gut, be a grownup, and tell! It could save the life of someone very dear to you.
The middle school, high school, and college years are hard, with many ups and downs. You can either let these challenges consume you or fuel you. My advice is to always keep fighting, love yourself, and know that your life matters more than you could ever comprehend.