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March 18, 2004

Remembering the reasons to live

by Eric Glover, Page Editor
Where only first names appear, names have been changed to protect the identities of the sources.

By last December, he was sure no one would care if he did it, right there in his own home. At most they would glance at his memory, shrug and move on with their lives. So Ken, a junior, swallowed even more pills and waited to become another statistic.

That made him one of the three million high-school students last year that seriously considered suicide, and one of the million who actually attempted it. But Ken was fortunate enough to receive medical attention before joining 1,600 high-schoolers who commit suicide annually. Ken, like several other Blazers, has managed to come back from the brink of suicide, and he knows he is here to stay.

But only three months ago, Ken knew he wanted to die. He had never really fit in. People wouldn’t stop making fun of him. And he was already on Prozac, an antidepressant, which increases the risk of suicide among children taking the drug versus youths who take placebos, according to FDA officials. Ken had reached a silent boiling point, and felt there wouldn’t be any tears shed over him if he disappeared. “I didn’t think anyone would miss me," he says.

The reasons were different for Alice, a senior, who was feeling too suffocated in tenth grade to be happy. Her mother was overbearing, and their relationship eventually crashed into an ugly grudge towards each other. “Our interactions were really tense," Alice says. “We had really fiery tempers." Before Alice could commit suicide, a friend found out what she was planning to do and notified her counselor.

Immediate action is best, even if a friend’s confidence must be broken, experts say. Blair counselor Melba Battle agrees. “If students have friends that are in danger, they should report it," she says. Battle is required by law to keep students contemplating suicide in her office until their parents arrive. Afterwards, Battle refers that student to the Montgomery County Crisis Center.

For Ken, help arrived in the nick of time. By the time his friend Laura arrived at his house in her pajamas, the surplus of anxiety pills was already in Ken’s system. When she entered his room, Ken crumpled onto his mattress, woozy with the effects of the overdose. “He was curled up in a ball on his bed, crying," Laura says. “It was so unnatural."

Ken’s father drove Ken and Laura to the hospital, where the doctors found that Ken had not taken enough pills to die. But in the waiting room, Ken continued to ask for more pills.

When Alice’s parents found out that she had been considering suicide, they were shocked. Her mother tried to put Alice into a mental hospital. “I refused," Alice says. “All I wanted to do was be left alone."

Ken, however, was put into a mental institution. Every day, he woke up at 7:30 a.m. and participated in several group talks with other youths who were risks to themselves.

Expressing oneself helps ease suicidal tension, according to psychologist Dennis O’Brien. “Research shows that just talking about the [suicidal] thought reduces the chance of suicide tremendously."

Talking it out didn’t go so well for Alice, whose mother set her up with a “crinkly" woman who would stare at her. Alice’s mother wouldn’t change therapists, despite Alice’s wishes. Eventually, Alice simply refused to go.

Over time, her anger subsided. She and her mother decided to put her suicide thoughts behind them, and Alice began her junior year with an upbeat outlook on life. She began to discover things about herself and her life—she loved both. “I’m one hundred and fifty percent stronger than who I was before," she says.

Her relationship with her mother has improved significantly, and her friends have been there for her in ways they never had been before. “I count myself as the luckiest person in the world to have such amazing friends," she says. “They complete me."

Ken still takes antidepressants, though he made the switch from Prozac. His friends have been just as important as medicine. “Everyone really does care," he says.



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  • ........ on March 23, 2004
    The counselors at Blair were horrible, my friend told one of them I was cutting, and I was told I could not come back to Blair if I did not get a therapist, I got one who was horrible and didn't help. The best way to get better is to focus on those things positive, or else you'll never get happy.
  • CheerGurly (View Email) on April 19, 2004
    This article is really good and I hope both of them Still look at life better trust me I tried to commit it and ended up alone with no one but now its beter I have friends to help me through it all and life has never been better!!!
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