Today’s lifestyle can be troubling for teens

When one writes articles for this newspaper or any other newspaper, the writer opens himself or herself to the theme of a Clint Eastman movie, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

For the most part, most of the readers have been supportive and gracious. The “bad” goes to prove that, “you can’t fix stupid.” The ugly I don’t even refer to based on the slogan, “live and let live.”

When I was counseling in 2010, we, in chemical dependency were receiving information on two topics — teen suicide and bullying. Most of us took these two topics seriously in 2010. From 2010 to 2023, the suicide rate among young girls both straight and LBGTQ+ have continued to climb at the rate of 28%. This article is a continuation of last month’s to try and provide more depth as to what is going on with our teenagers.

Recently, a good friend of mine at a sales meeting gave me an account of his 16-year-old grandson. “My suicidal 16-year-old grandson ingested and smoked a cocktail of several drugs. His parents found him unresponsive with a heart rate of nearly 200 beats per minute. The EMTs and doctor saved his life. Sadly, this wasn’t his first attempt. He is now a ward of the state, as a danger to himself and awaits a bed in a facility. Beds for teenagers with prescribed medications are hard to come by for those in need of treatment.

“To make a long story short, my grandson was released from the hospital and sent home to his parents. No beds were available in any of the adolescent mental health facilities. He was declared ‘stable’ from the drugs flushed out of him and ready to attend high school, where he can obtain the drugs that got him sick in the first place. He refuses to go to an inpatient drug rehab and lives in a state where he has that right. His parents’ goal is to try and keep him alive. Unbelievable!”

This story of teenage suicide has been repeated over and over and is not new. I have two friends whose sons have died by suicide. I bet you know someone too. Your son, daughter, or granddaughter or grandson.

As my last article stated, this has been an ongoing process before the pandemic in 2020. In my opinion, as a parent and counselor, what these young people have endured throughout the pandemic, with isolation from school and friends, has escalated the mental health crisis. Should we blame lack of in-classroom learning? As all counselors know, isolation is never conducive to mental health, with thinking patterns of anxiety, depression and fear of the future.

The problem for young people is that the teen years are confusing physically and emotionally. They are neither an adult nor a child anymore, even though at times their behavior may resemble children. Many of the kids I have talked and worked with lack hope. These kids face a broken world, a climate in turmoil, a culture of guns and more guns, daily mass shootings –310 so far this year, an economic hierarchy that is unfair. A failed, underfunded mental health policy, that often puts people in prison instead of treatment. All of us, children and adults, are subject to drugs and guns. Bombs and rubble (watch TV at night on Ukraine) destroy and rebuild a division of red vs. blue politics, the never-ending culture wars and hatred of nationalities, genders that trickles down to all of us. It’s not just children.

Fifteen veterans a day commit suicide due to untreated PTSD and other mental health reasons. We are uncertain about everything it seems.

As a kid growing up in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, we went through the “teen challenges.” However, drugs were not as pervasive as they are today. Stronger cannabis was still illegal everywhere. Firearms were not easily obtained. As a result, school was a safe place, and school shooting non-existent. The greatest offenses in school were running down the hall, chewing gum and talking in class. Today it’s poverty, drugs, bullying, parents, not allowing good teachers to teach and coaches to teach and coach.

It may seem to you that I’m sticking up for the kids. Granted, they need to be held accountable for their behaviors. My point is, in the history of education, we have never seen the catastrophic events that these kids have. So what’s the answer or answers?

I’m not going to try and provide “an” answer, but I’ll give you some things that you can do to help your kids as you raise them. Remember, that they are “special” to you, not the world. Tell them the truth: the world can be a cold, hard place and many times things that are thrown at us are unfair.

Also, if one is to live in our world of today, get ready to be inconvenienced many times. If you can’t calm the storm, calm yourself. This is God’s world, we merely live in it. Learn the Serenity Prayer. If you don’t know it, call me, I’ll teach it to you. Get in touch with your spirituality by treating others better, remembering the golden rule, “treat others the way you would like to be treated.”

Material things don’t make you a person. Random acts of kindness do.

As a parent, try to be a good role model for your teenager. They are observing you and your behaviors all the time. How you handle adversity will go a long way in helping them when they have to handle it.

Most of all, talk to them and then shut your mouth and listen. Whether it’s rational or irrational, as the slogan says, “be patient with me, God’s not done with me yet.”

Like the sweatshirt says, “Choose life.”

Good luck and God bless.

Mike Tramuta is a Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy counselor. He can be reached at 716-983-1592.


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