Advice: Is Your Teen Crying Out For Help?

Is Your Teen Crying Out For Help?

By Dr. Max Trask

Where is your teenager right now? Up in his room, probably. And what is he doing up there? The normal things we all did as teens? Perhaps. Maybe he’s listening to music. Maybe he’s on the phone. Maybe he’s getting jiggy with that one-fourth lifesize Victorian doll you keep in the hall closet. The one with the frilly underpants.

In a perfect world, maybe. But chances are he’s thinking about taking his own life.

This doesn’t mean you should rush up to his room and barge in right this minute. At least not without knocking first (see above). Thinking about suicide is perfectly natural for a teenager; it doesn’t mean he’s going to do it. Besides, teens who do attempt suicide usually have low self-esteem, and the reason for that is that they tend to botch everything they try. So chances are your teen will make a balls-up of his suicide as well. Take the example of the young lady at Chrislip College who tried to hang herself in the parking garage, but used a bunjee cord by mistake. She survived, but afterward none of her shirts fit, and she had to buy a whole new wardrobe.

What makes a kid think about suicide in the first place? Sometimes they see it as glamorous. The cultural landscape is littered with teen icons who have taken their own lives: Ray Combs, Dave Garroway, the guy who played Uncle Bill on Family Affair.

But more often it’s depression that drives the suicide machine. Teens didn’t invent depression, but they perfected it. And it’s certainly nothing new. In my day, kids were depressed, too. We fretted about World War II and the subsequent Cold War. These days kids tend to be depressed about more mundane things, such as the possible breakup of the Beatles.

Whatever the problem, depression is like pain – the more you spread it around, the less it hurts you personally. It really helps to have someone to talk to. My grandson Tristan, who is a freshman at Chrislip High, is a good case study. He’d been depressed, and came to me for advice. I told him to snap out of it. That worked for a while, but somehow the old black dog of depression came stealthily back. That’s when I talked to him about his problem, which I sometimes do as a last resort – a sort of psychological Hail Mary pass, if you will. Tristan then disclosed the single thing that was troubling him the most: he has an extremely small penis. I think he felt better just having someone to tell his problem to; someone he could trust to keep his secret and not betray his confidence.

In the end, there’s no need to panic. Next time you walk out to the garage, statistics show you’re more likely to discover your child running a crystal meth lab than crouching in a corner with a pistol in his mouth. So cheer up. Chances are the only “depression” involving your teen will be the one he leaves in the couch from still playing Pac-Man in your living room when he’s thirty.

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