Michael was a handsome young man,
with beautiful blue-green eyes and a fabulous smile.
He was engaged to a lovely young woman and had three fabulous children. And last month, Michael completed suicide.
Michael’s parents are dear friends of mine, and their loss is absolutely devastating. As a friend, and a parent of children so close to his age, I have been entirely at a loss for what to do. After thought and prayer, I realized that the best thing I can do to honor his memory and their grief is to join the conversation about suicide. We have to talk about it, friends. We have to be aware and informed.
Because this topic is far outside my area of expertise, I once again am partnering with my friend Abby Young, a licensed therapist, for language about suicide. Please read her thoughts on suicide and share it, talk about it. For Sherry, Glenn, and Emily. And for Michael.
When Becky asked me to write about the topic of suicide for her blog, part of me was excited, but a part was procrastinating. Perhaps it is my own journey with suicide that was being triggered. But now I am happy to write that my fingers found the keyboard, and I feel privileged to share some information about suicide, the rates among our future generation, and some of my thoughts on how to help.
Talking about suicide is unsettling, because it means we can no longer ignore what is happening. We must discuss and come together in a way to provide loving support to our children at home, in school, and in community.
The problem is real, and it’s growing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates among 15 to 19 year-olds have increased from 1975 to 2015. Similarly, the suicide rate among the U.S. working age population increased 34% from 2000-2016. 
For those that have not struggled with suicidal thoughts or past attempts, it can be difficult to understand how someone can see death as an option when there are so many choices for help. But the depression is deceitful; it tells you there is nothing out there that will help.
Suicide is insidious. It builds a home inside doubt and hopelessness. When the support beams of doubt are in place, the walls of hopelessness go up and you can no longer see beyond the wall. All you know is you feel stuck, and the only escape is to die. What I believe is important is what starts this thought, the pain that leads to building the walls. As we look towards helping our children and adults, it is important to know the pain has a root. And this root is where we need to start.
Difficult emotions cause discomfort, and we want to try to fix this pain or redirect our emotions to something better or easier. However, these behaviors teach our children how not to feel. When we teach them not to feel, we are equipping them with little to no tools on how to sit with emotional discomfort. Thus, they learn to look for distractions from the pain—drugs, alcohol, risky behaviors, avoidance.
The problem is, these distractions only work temporarily, and then the pain comes back. And here is where thoughts of suicide can begin to grow. The person becomes convinced that the emotions are bigger than they are and can’t be managed. These feelings of no control lead to disempowerment and no hope for something different. So, suicide becomes the only option.
So. What can we do?
The greatest suicide prevention is creating emotional tools to share with our children as they become independent adults. These tools are the greatest gift we can give them.
If you are concerned about a child (or adult) in your life, below are some indicators that they might be considering suicide as an option. Even if these signs aren’t present, trust your gut if it tells you your children might be considering suicide.
High risk behaviors that could cause serious harm
Changes in eating habits, or weight loss/gain
Feeling sad, withdrawn, or lethargic for more than two weeks.
Increased difficulty in being able to focus to the point of poor grades or task completion
Ongoing/Increased use of drugs or alcohol
Additionally there are risk factors that could make an individual more susceptible for a suicide attempt.
Prior suicide attempts
Exposure to violence or another person’s suicide
Serious physical health conditions including pain
Also remember that suicidal thoughts can be a side effect of medication changes or combinations. Talk to your doctor right now if this might be happening, or if you believe you have a medical issue inducing suicidal thoughts.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, please know you don’t always have to have them. Or if someone has shared with you they have thought about suicide, don’t be afraid to have a conversation with them. And please don’t be afraid to ask for help. I have and I am here.
If you feel suicidal, call 911. If you need to talk to someone right away, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. If you are in Lawrence, Kansas, our local hotline is 785-841-2345. Call right now.
Michael Allen Tamerius. 1994-2019
 Peterson C, Stone DM, Marsh SM, et al. Suicide Rates by Major Occupational Group — 17 States, 2012 and 2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018;67:1253–1260. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6745a1external icon.
 National Alliance on Mental Illness: https://www.nami.org/Press-Media/Press-Releases/2015/10-Warning-Signs
 American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: https://afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs/