We never want to hear that something so tragic has happened in our small, close-knit community, but it has. Devastation and grief ripple through the family, the school, the town… and we are unprepared. Teen suicide is on the rise. Whether it be due to the pandemic or other reasons is of no consequence when parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends are mourning a young person gone so suddenly and unexpectedly.

While we need to take time to grieve (everyone does it differently and that’s okay), we should also take a sobering look at suicide. According to cdc.gov, Alabama’s suicide rate for 2019 was 16.3 per 100,000 of population which puts us in the middle of the road nationally. In the past decade, suicide has climbed from the No. 3 cause of death for those age 15 to 24 to the No. 2 cause of death.

As adults in the midst of a global pandemic and all the baggage that came with it, most of us are doing the best we can. While we are hopefully equipped with the coping skills to get through it, our children are struggling. Above all else, we need to work to remove the stigma associated with mental illness and everything that falls under that umbrella.

It is okay if you are not okay. You are not alone. Find a trusted friend or family member to talk to at the very least. Seek professional counseling if you need it. You are not defective or weak or anything else. There are people who care about you even if you think they don’t.

If you are the trusted friend or family member someone chooses to talk to, LISTEN to them. Don’t blow it off or try to “fix” them. Don’t shame them and tell them to “suck it up buttercup.” Come alongside them and walk through whatever is going on with them. It won’t be easy. Encourage them to get professional help if they need it. You could be the lifeline they are clinging to desperately.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (en español: 1-888-628-9454; deaf and hard of hearing: dial 711, then 1-800-273- 8255). You are worth it!