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Why “It (Doesn’t) Get Better”


Recently, the ‘It Gets Better’ Campaign had been gaining steam throughout the media as many gay and lesbian celebrities provided YouTube videos for gay and lesbian teens experiencing bullying in schools. The primary purpose of the campaign is to tell those teens that it gets better as a tool to prevent suicide. Recent studies have found that lesbian teens are 7 times more likely to attempt suicide when compared to heterosexual teens. Gay teens are 3 to 4 times more likely to attempt suicide. So, why do I say ‘It ‘Doesn’t’ Get Better’. As a psychotherapist, professor, and professional school counselor in middle and high schools, I tend to have an alternate view to the campaigns of the moment. Developmentally, teens are very present oriented, poor decision makers, self-absorbed, and highly susceptible to the opinions and scrutiny of their peers. I have often heard adults (including teachers, school counselors, administrators, parents) telling these teens to just ‘hold on, it gets better’. However, these comments are often not accompanied by individual or group counseling, increased parental involvement, increased involvement in school and/or school activities and an all-around targeted approach to improve the teen’s social support. If we sit back, as adults, and think about what it was like for us when we were teens, how effective would it have been to hear a ‘grown-up’ tell us that it will ‘get better’? Especially when we feel like we are dying a little each day that we have to walk the halls of a school that could very likely be the bane of our existence? I remember being completely enveloped by my own pain as kids made fun of me for being the ‘new kid’. I want to clarify that I applaud celebrities for getting involved, however I am SCREAMING through the blogosphere that we ALL must do more to help our children make it through these hard times. Take your child’s complaints seriously. If you have made a formal complaint to the administration, made the teachers, school counselors, and even the school district aware of what is going on in school with your child, do not force your child to stay in a school that they perceive to be hell on earth. There are many different alternative methods of education. As a therapist, I feel strongly that victims of bullying should receive counseling to learn how to deal with these difficult situations. However, I do not believe that we should force our children to stay in an environment in which they are not receiving adequate support. We must move beyond just ‘telling’ our children that it will get better. We need to MAKE it happen.

Ask them about suicide, if you love them, you want to know..

Ask them, ‘Have you ever thought about committing suicide?” With the passing of Junior Seau, I have been thinking about the topic of suicide. Suicide is a topic that many of us consider taboo. We may think our loved ones may have considered it, but we are afraid to ask. Many think that by bringing it up we are ‘puttingĀ it in their heads’. This could not be further from the truth! If you think your loved one has been depressed, sad, not sleeping, changed their routine, etc, sit them down and ask them about how they are feeling. You can also ask, “Have you ever thought about committing suicide?”. You want to discuss if they have a means (“If you were to do it, how would you do it?”) and a plan (“Have you thought this through? When would you do it and where?). Many of us are afraid of having a conversation like this. Don’t get angry with the person if they say they have been thinking about it. You want to maintain an open line of communication and encourage them to come to you when they have these thoughts. If they do tell you they are feeling this way, immediately call a therapist. If you feel your loved one is in immediate danger, call 911.