Raising Teens

A site for parents of teens striving for sanity

Tag: teen suicide

What to do about teen depression

I just wrote an article on teen depression that appeared in The Miami Herald.  For the article,  I interviewed Pamela Leal, the mother of Bailey Leal who committed suicide two years ago when she was only 17.  My conversation with Pam stayed with me for days.  It was clear to me that she not only loved her daughter, but expressed that love to her. Of course, there were signs that Bailey was depressed and suffering …but would any of us catch the signs?

Teen depression  and the increasing rates of teen suicide is SCARY! A study released in May tracking 32 children’s hospitals nationwide showed that admissions for suicidal behavior and serious self-harm among 5-to-17-year-olds more than doubled between 2008 and 2015. As Time Magazine notes: that’s just a tiny percentage of the kids who are experiencing major depression or anxiety or are hurting themselves in various ways, like cutting. Nationally, 17.7% of teens reported seriously considering attempting suicide in 2015, according to the CDC.

In interviewing sources for my article, something I learned from Graciela Jimenez, psychotherapist with the Care and Counseling Services for Baptist Health South Florida, stood out. She said it’s okay to ask your teen if he or she is thinking about suicide, if you see a sign. She said parents often are afraid to ask because they don’t want to put the idea in their child’s head, but it is better to address it, she said.

I encourage you to read my article and learn as much about the signs of teen depression as possible. If you are dealing with a mental health issue with your teen, please share your experiences and thoughts with other parents. This blog is an important place for parents to help each other.

Click here to link to my Miami Herald article.


13 Reasons Why Not (Preventing Teen Suicide)

My daughter, Olivia, recently told me about the Netflix show “Thirteen Reasons Why which is based on a novel about a young teenage girl who commits suicide and leaves 13 letters behind to explain the 13 reasons why she did it. This show is somewhat disturbing, but yet so real and mesmerizing. It’s a subject no parent wants to talk about because it is incomprehensible to think of a child committing suicide, but face it, suicide is VERY real! Ignoring or avoiding the subject could cost your child his or her life.

I have to admit, there were times I worried about Olivia.  Four years ago, Olivia had a friend in high school she knew through her soccer team, Bailey Leal.  I remember meeting Bailey at the end-of-year high school  soccer awards dinner. At the dinner, Bailey was awarded  an iron for being the “iron girl” of the varsity team.  I remember thinking, “WOW, how cool is that to get an “iron” award!”  Little did I know how Bailey would be impacting mine and Olivia’s  lives, not to mention thousands of others.

On May 21, 2013, I received a text from Olivia saying Bailey Leal committed suicide. I remember thinking, “This must be a mistake. How can this be? ” I also remember thinking the bigger question.. “WHY?? ”

Within minutes, the news about Bailey’s suicide was all over our town. Teens  were devastated and parents were numb. Olivia at the time was going through her own personal problems and this did not help. Olivia could not comprehend WHY Bailey would do this? I remember her telling me , “Mom, she was beautiful, popular, everyone loved her. She was an All-American soccer star and got a  perfect score on the ACT. She had it all Mom. Why did she take her life?”

Olivia, couldn’t understand if Bailey had ALL of this going for her, what could be so awful that her only solution would be to end her life.  Little did I know how fragile Olivia was and how badly this would affect her.

There were times Olivia couldn’t go to school. She couldn’t handle her emotions inside and was afraid of herself and what she was feeling. Bailey’s death brought all kinds of feelings to the surface. It made what she was feeling and thinking REAL and at the same time it scared her to death.  This changed my world as well because I didn’t know how to deal with teen suicide and what the signs were and how to talk to Olivia about it. She was suffering and I didn’t know how to get through to her and help her.

Bailey’s death brought everyone together in the community, teens, parents, families. They even created a club at school  called the HOPE club so kids can  get together and talk about what they are feeling and deal  those feelings together, no judgment. These teens had no idea how  Bailey’s suicide would affect them.  I know many parents became afraid that their child would be next. Bailey’s death brought awareness of how  thoughts of suicide can hide behind a smile, a laugh, a hug.

The point of my blog is to keep Bailey’s spirit alive through awareness of Mental Illness. Not every parent can recognize the signs because  teens are really good at hiding them. So  as a parent of a teen, what should you do?

Talk to your teen!! If he or she doesn’t want to talk to you, suggest they talk to someone else.  Not every teen has thoughts of committing suicide, but it’s okay to talk to them about it because they may know someone who they think does. Ignorance will not save anyone. It’s okay if your child is not okay. It is up to us, the parents, to be as involved in our teens’ lives as possible, even when they don’t want us to be.

Sad enough,  teens are committing suicide because they didn’t seek any help or they felt no one could help them. They are literally suffering inside in their own hell. Parents think their child is fine or  just moody or going through a hormone stage.  That may not be true. Your teen may be suffering from depression, anxiety,  bipolar disorder. But without really talking to them or getting them help,  you won’t know   until it is too late.

I have attached a video that was created for the one-year anniversary of Bailey’s death. I have to warn you, it will break your heart.  You will cry. I sometimes wonder how Bailey’s family got thought her death. How did they even want to wake up in the morning?  What I can tell you is that they did. It wasn’t easy, I am sure. And, I bet every day is a struggle. But Bailey’s mom is now an advocate for mental health and keeps her daughter’s memory alive through education and awareness of teen suicide.  I am in awe of her because as a mom, I don’t know if I would be as strong as she has been. So, all you moms and dads and teens who are reading this blog, I hope this opens your eyes  to mental illness and teen suicide and prevention.

I thought I would end with the 13 Reasons Why Not to commit suicide:

  1. You are not alone
  2. The pain can go away without committing suicide
  3. There is help
  4. The world needs you
  5. No one can replace you
  6. You will be missed
  7. It will make things worse for the people/family you leave behind
  8. Friends and family will be devastated
  9. Your life hasn’t even begun
  10. You can save someone’s life
  11. You are bigger than the problem
  12. You did not come this far in life to end it so tragically and so early.
  13. You are worth more and loved more than you think.
raquelmalderman@gmail.com has shared a video with you on YouTube





Remembering Bailey


by William Holden

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Social Media: Deathtrap for teens?

I recently reviewed a book  called The Boss of Me…is Me and was impressed, horrified, scared out of my wits and grateful  to the authors all at the same time.  The authors  have written an eye-opening book about  how social media can  lure teens into some scary and awful life-altering situations. They  give some  edgy scenarios as real-life examples.  One of the most shocking was about a young teen who had befriended an 18-year-old on Facebook, slipped unnoticed from her home to meet him, and walked into her death trap. As I was reading the book, all I kept thinking was how I could so see this happening.

The  book is filled with tips and intended to  empower teens with the life skills they need to be the boss of their own thoughts, attitudes and actions.    The authors address a variety of relevant issues including suicide, shoplifting, child molestation and runaways.   The book is designed to equip teens to think and act quickly to avoid going down a path that ends in death, prison and suicide. It  basically helps prevent teens from becoming  a victim and  a statistic. As a mom of two teens, these scenarios scare the heck out of me and infuriate me at the same time! I am still shaking my head that these threats to our teens are  really happening in our society, but I shouldn’t be.

I like that this guidebook helps teach teens that there is always a way out of these awful situations they get themselves into, often because of their social media activities. The guidebook is in a notebook form so teens can write in it and basically have a lifetime of references when completed! The notebook does not come in a digital format because the authors wanted to ensure parental supervision however, the guidebook is in digital format. The guidebook empowers parents to facilitate and engage in conversations with their teen and that’s what is most important!  Without the parents being a facilitator, your teen wouldn’t learn or grasp the true meaning and value of the message(s) the authors are trying to convey.

Parents, because you haven’t physically seen or been exposed to this DOES NOT MEAN it’s not happening or could not happen to you and your kids. Your child could be a victim!  No one is immune. Educate, be aware and talk to you kids. Better yet,  BUY them this book so they can learn first hand about the crimes that are happening to teens.

As a parent, I encourage you to  have them read it! Get the electronic version since you know teens prefer technology to actual books. I hope this books builds awareness but most importantly, saves lives.

Here is a link if you wish to purchase The Boss of Me…is ME ! It is also available at www.cablepublishing.com, Amazon, and all major bookstores. (25% of all proceeds will be donated to The Youth Connection in Detroit, MI.)

By the way, the authors’ backgrounds are impressive:  June Werdlow Rogers  is a retired federal agent with a PhD in criminology,  Rayfield Rogers Jr  is a retired district chief of security for a school district in Michigan,  Grenae´ Dudley PhD is CEO of a youth center.

Parents if you have encountered scary scenarios with your teen as a result of social media, or know someone who can relate, please share your stories.

Is Your Teen Daughter Cutting Herself?

One day, my daughter came home from school and told me her friend had cut herself.  My reaction was “she did what?” My daughter explained that her friend is “going through some stuff” and she had been cutting her arm, just enough to cause pain but not enough to cause serious harm.  After that first time, she has mentioned many other friends who cut themselves, telling me about it like it’s no big deal.

This self-harm trend is huge and most parents don’t even know it’s happening.

Growing up, I can’t remember ever considering cutting myself, nor do I remember hearing anyone else consider it. But today, cutting is a way some teens are coping with strong emotions, intense pressure, or relationship problems.  It’s a way for a teen to  let out what she is feeling inside. According to NDTV, self-harm is not a fashion fad, nor is it suicidal behavior. It is merely a coping mechanism and one in 12 teens have tried it

Where do teens learn about this? Believe it or not, there are dozens of YouTube “how to” cutting videos. 

The triggers are pretty much the same ones that have always caused teens trouble:

  • Depression,
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Complicated relationships
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Stress and emotional burden

Today, the first of March is marked as Self-Injury Awareness Day. An orange ribbon is commonly associated with this campaign.





If you’re a parent who has seen signs that your teen is self injuring, this book could be a resource for you,   A Caregiver’s Guide to Self-injury.  So could these fact sheets with dos and don’ts for approaching your teen about it.










If you suspect your teen has inflicted self-injury — bruises, scratches, cuts– it’s a great opportunity to have a conversation about it. This is definitely not a rare phenomenon so if you’re suspicious, use today to do something about it. You can follow the conversation on Twitter at #SIAD.

This is a powerful video made by a teen who talks about her personal experience with cutting

I’m Devastated by Teen Boys Committing Suicide

Yesterday, when I heard a teenage boy at University of Florida appeared to have committed suicide, I was devastated. How sad that a young man could feel hopeless enough to take his life!

My nephews, who knew this boy well, are grief stricken. This boy was close with his younger brother, belonged to a fraternity, had lots of friends and  played on the university’s hockey team. Through an outside observer’s eyes, he seemed to be living an ideal life.

When I was in high school — a school with about 2,500 students — I never knew of any of my peers committing suicide. And even in my college years, suicide among the teens was a very unusual event that I rarely heard of.

Yet, in the last year, two teenage boys with whom I have a connection have committed suicide and I regularly hear of others in cities across the U.S.  This morning, I stumbled onto a website with a post by Mark Gregston , founder and executive director of Heartlight, a residential counseling program for struggling adolescents.  He gave these statistics:  Before the 1960’s, suicide by adolescents happened only rarely; but today, nearly one in ten teens contemplates suicide, and over 500,000 attempt it each year. While suicide rates for all other ages have dropped, suicides among teens have nearly tripled.

Gregston explains that between the sexes, teen boys are more than four times as likely to commit suicide as girls. But girls are known to think about and attempt suicide about twice as often as boys. The difference is the method; girls attempt suicide by overdosing on drugs or cutting themselves, and thankfully most are found in time and rescued. Boys tend to use more lethal methods, such as firearms, hanging, or jumping from heights.

For the last 24 hours I am consumed with this horror. I’m scared for our teens and for parents who aren’t sure  how to avert this sad scenario.

Ask any parent and they will tell you that the pressure on teens today is much greater than it was when they went to high school. The pressure to achieve academically, socially and athletically has reached crazy levels and our kids are paying the price. Combine that pressure with the angst from social media and we have created a society of highly anxious and often depressed teenagers who are flooding campus counseling centers looking for ways to cope.

How does suicide happen? Gregston says teens who feel pain and despair don’t see the bigger picture; they only see the “right now.” They get wrapped up in the emotions of the moment.  When you mix immature short-sightedness with feelings of utter hopelessness, some kids think they cannot live with the pain another day. They react on suicidal thoughts without thinking it through.

As a mother of a son in college who doesn’t communicate well with me, I worry.

So, what can we as parents do?

Gregston says we can talk to our teens when we see any signs of trouble and encourage them to seek professional help from a qualified mental health professional.

Here are some more of his recommendations:

  • If you ever hear your teen say, “I’m going to kill myself,” or “I’m going to commit suicide,” always take such statements seriously and immediately seek assistance from a qualified mental health professional. Don’t walk away. Don’t wait.  Get them to a hospital or counselor immediately, even if they don’t want to go or say they were just fooling with you.
  • If you see mild warning signs, ask your teen if he or she is depressed or thinking about suicide.
  • Get them to commit to you that if they ever do have those thoughts, they’ll let you or someone else know.
  • If your teen confides in you their loss of hope or control of their life, show that you take those concerns seriously.
  • Recognize that a depressed teen generally doesn’t have the ability or strength to solve their own depression.
  • Listen to your teen and try not to be judgemental or accusing. Being a teenager is hard today and your child is justified in their feelings, even if you may not agree or understand. When you realize this, you can help your child.
  • Remain in contact; even if you no longer have any control over your teen’s life. It can make all the difference.

Parents whose children are suffering from anxiety often feel embarrassed or don’t want to talk about it with other people. The reality is more parents are dealing with this than you realize.

Also, I feel like it is increasingly important to talk to our teens about how to respond if they have a friend who suffers from anxiety or depression.  Their reaction in a situation can be just as critical to how it plays out.

When a teen commits suicide, the entire community grieves. Yet, we aren’t making enough headway in preventing this tragedy. What are your thoughts on the increasing rate of teen suicide? Is it too late to dial down the pressure on teens? What do you think can be done?

My friend’s son killed himself: when tragedy strikes

This morning, I am in shock. My friend’s son killed himself. He was only 20.

What do you say to a mother or father who gets that news? There are no words.

As we run around, worrying about answering an email or returning a phone call, we forget that the routine tasks on our plates mean little when it comes to losing someone you love. There is nothing that can replace that hole for a parent who loses their child.

My friend may never understand why this tragedy occurred. But she will always wish she could have done more. She will think of every time she hugged her son, every moment she spent with him and wish there were more.

So, for all of us who have more time with our teens, let’s disconnect this weekend. Let’s not worry about the customer or supervisor who is giving us aggravation, the emails we need to answer, the errands we need to run. Let’s put our mobile devices in our pockets and leave them there. It’s Valentine’s weekend and the best time ever to show love to your teens and to those you care about by giving them what they want and need  most — our undivided attention.

My heart aches for my friend who has been clutching her son’s photo since learning of the news. She has experienced the kind of loss and perspective no one should have to endure. I know there is little I can do for her right now. It’s a helpless feeling.

So, for her and the other parents who have been in her shoes, let’s make the most of our Valentine’s Day and be present for our families. We all have people in our lives we love  – let’s show them through our actions. Let’s be present in body and mind. As my grieving friend as learned, roses and chocolates are nice but they pale in comparison to real conversation and a big hug.

Teen suicide has become rampant. I’m scared.

teen suicide


From every direction lately, I hear about teen suicide. First, I read about two high school girls, both popular soccer players, who killed themselves just days apart. One may have killed herself because she felt guilty for not preventing the other from taking her life.

Today, I read about Ohio State football player Kosta Karageorge, a 22-year-old lineman and wrestler who was found dead in a dumpster blocks away from his apartment with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Karageorge’s mother, Susan Karageorge, had previously told a TV station that her son suffered from concussions, and that he had sent her a text shortly before he went missing in which he apologized for being an “embarrassment” as a result of the medical condition.

“I wish you could’ve talked to me if you were struggling,”Johnni Dijulius, one of Karageorge’s teammates on the wrestling team told NBC News. “I love you to death and I hope that you found peace and you’re happy.”

As I read more and more about teen suicide, I’m scared. What’s going on with our teens and young adults?

The rate of teen suicide has been rising during the past few years, according to a survey by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The study also found 1 in 12 high school students reported having attempted suicide.

Are we raising teens that feel lonely, disconnected and misunderstood? What should we be doing differently?

Recently, during a fight in my son’s school cafeteria, the teens all reached for their phones to video it. Not one, called for help. Are we raising teens who try to capture the moment digitally rather than step in physically to prevent hurt feelings, broken bones or worse — suicide? Have you had a conversation with your teen lately about coming to you if he or she feels suicidal or believes a friend might be?

Teens, like everyone else, need to feel like someone gets them. They want to be understood. Obviously, we’re not doing enough to help them feel that way.

Clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg rightfully asks: “Why are so many teens giving up so quickly?” I have to wonder the same…..

Is social media to blame? Are violent video games the problem? Could peer pressure have reached a new level? Are we relying too much on medication rather than conversation?

Why do you think teen suicide is on the uptick and what do you think parents can do about it?

Too much stress causing Teen Suicides?

It’s a new school year and I can’t believe almost 3 months to the day of the last teen suicide at my daughter’s high school, (May 21, 2013), another girl committed suicide on August 28th, 2013.

I am stunned at what seems to be an epidemic!

I asked my daughter how and why and her response was, “Mom, kids now a days have a lot of stress and they are depressed and they don’t know how to handle it since they can’t talk to their parents about it.”

She tells me most of the suicides are usually girls and that they have family problems at home. What I don’t understand is WHY? WHat type of stress is so big and horrible that the only answer is death? I argued with my daughter because I said, “What stress does your generation have that all previous ones did not?”  Then she replied, “Mom, you don’t get it, social media wasn’t around when you were in school. There is so much more teen pressure and stress. Kids can’t handle it and they get depressed and instead of getting help, telling their parents and going to a doctor for medication for it, they kill themselves.”

Are you kidding? So, if a teen can’t talk with his or her parents about something, this is their only way out?? I mean really?? Talk to a priest, a rabbi,  school counselor, anybody, a friend. Why can’t these teens talk to their parents? How did their parents not see something was wrong? I am worried now.

What is the face of suicide? Is it my daughter? Is it her friend? I mean it’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s horrible.

Parents are scared. Now we have to worry if any little thing that upsets our children will push them over the edge? How did  we get here and how do we make it stop? How dark must it be for these kids that their ONLY solution is death?

We still don’t have details on how or why the young girl killed herself but my heart goes out to  her parents,  family and friends. Life will never be the same and they will never know what was so bad that their daughter, sister, cousin, friend took her life for it.

I would love for someone to respond to this and give me some insight on how to prevent this  teen suicide from getting out of hand? Am I scared? Heck yes. I am  very involved in my daughter’s life, but now this just makes me realize I need to keep being involved and keep an open line of communication.  But most importantly I need to establish trust. My daughter needs to be able to trust me with anything  — even if I don’t approve. I need to be her safe house. I may not like, or approve what she tells me, but I will listen and be there always.

So hug your kids a bit longer tonight because I am sure the parents of the two young girls who took their precious lives would give anything to hug their teen daughters one last time and never let go.


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