#childsafety | Commentary: We have to build resilience and compassion in our kids | Shakopee Opinion


In light of the recent event involving a Prior Lake High schooler, I felt the need to share my heart.

I first want to give you some background on myself, you see, I am the mother of a child who was lost to suicide. While each suicide story is unique to itself, all of us grieving suicide loss mothers due feel a deep connection to stories such as this one. I was told about the contents of this video, which is what led me to write.

It would seem that our youth is so manipulated by social media attention at times that it has stolen their compassion and empathy. We hurt for all the kids in this story because each of them at some point in their life had love in their hearts and yet for some that love and even joy was taken over by depression and others that love taken over by attention-seeking hate-filled words.

How has it come to this that one child is encouraging another child to essentially disappear? Do they know what they are saying? Have they experienced a trauma like mine?

Do they understand what it is to love someone and lose them to the darkness of depression? I do not know their stories but what I do know is the statistics and they don’t lie.

The upward trend of suicide in our teens was on the rise drastically before COVID. The updated statistics will not be out until 2022, but I can only anticipate what I have seen personally. That includes many mothers across the country who have joined this unfortunate club. All of us deeply broken-hearted struggling with the one thing that comes with child suicide loss: Guilt.

We of course know and learn it is not our fault, but it does like to linger and haunt. The sad trend I have noticed is the ages are younger and younger whether it is a challenge the children are seeing online or they are being bullied online or at school or they just simply have so much more information to process at their age than we did as children.

I don’t know the answer, but one thing I do know is our elementary schools in every community have made a concerted effort to make kindness and anti-bullying part of their curriculum and yet we still see this trend, especially in the secondary grades.

I believe social media plays a big role in this trend. Of course, I am just a suicide loss mom, but when I hear these stories, social media is often involved. It could be the person who may be struggling with suicidal ideation seeking out approval, advice from social media for their decision, the ruthless bullying that takes place on social media or even now the eagerness to get views on a video posted on social media. We are losing our kids in this trend and we must fight back with the truth.

I do not know the solution to this ongoing issue, but what I do know is we have to build resilience and compassion in our kids. Teach them about the dangers of social media, help them understand those standards they see on social media aren’t real. That is a split-second moment in a person’s life that they posted for a reason. They get to choose what they post and it’s rarely the worst look on the worst day.

I talk to teens anytime I can about the broader picture on social media to help them understand how small that moment is in that person’s life truly. It defines them the moment the photo was taken not that night not even the next day.

Each of the children in this story have their own story. Why are they making this choice? I can guarantee that none of them want to be living my story in their future and if they could just somehow see that, their words may be different.

Of course there are those of you who will say there is no hope for kids like that, they are trouble and always will be. I may have even been you at one point, but losing a child to suicide changes you. You simply cannot judge in that way anymore when it comes to another person’s child because everyone was shocked by your child.

You became that story. You were that mom. It’s an interesting perspective shift in loss. Your response to an awful news story involving a young person making an unexpected choice is generally feeling empathy and compassion for his mother, father, grandparent, educator … whoever made the effort with that child.

There is hope for change, but it will take us approaching suicide prevention like we do kindness, talk about it. Our kids know all about it if they are online so I would encourage you to find a suicide loss organization or site that may have a story appropriate to share with a child you have at home any age.

These stories need to be told and our young people need to understand the dangers. Help them know that there are times they may not feel OK and that is normal. Help them know that they don’t have to measure up to that kid on social media, they are their own unique person and perfect in your eyes. Teach them about depression and anxiety. You will not be introducing it to them, they know, but help them to understand their emotions and find skill sets that can help them through a crisis if they find themselves there.

If you have a child already struggling, you know what many of us moms living in this know, we wish we would have talked to them about this topic earlier. Create safety plans for your children, it is paramount that they know they can come to you no matter what.

My son was 19 and a freshman in college and he truly felt it was his burden to carry while there. Unfortunately he did not survive his battle with depression that freshman year. I encourage everyone to take a moment to talk about this with your teen, preteen, even younger.

Our kids are losing the resilience necessary to process these deep-rooted emotions that can often be internalized in this culture.

Lastly I will leave you with a quote, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose INFINITE HOPE” — Martin Luther King Jr.

Some great resources on this topic are the Hayden Hurst Family Foundation, NAMI, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Jed Foundation, Shatter Our Silence and even locally the Duck Cup Foundation. Find any of these online, be a difference maker for our youth.

Emily Matuza is a wife and mother of four children and is an administrative assistant for Burnsville-Eagan-Savage Schools, who has lived in Shakopee since 1999, the year Joey was born. She has a blog to try and help others going through similar experiences: https://mlematuza1.wixsite.com/mendingamothersbroke/blog.



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