Tag Archive | teenagers and mental health

The Anguish of Reporting About Teen Suicide

In all the years I have been a journalist, the hardest interview I had to conduct was with a mother who had just lost her 16-year-old daughter to suicide less than a week before we spoke. As the mother of young adults, I could feel her pain as she sobbed into the phone, having to relive the horrific tragedy as she shared the intimate details of her daughter’s struggles. When tragedy strikes, journalists are often first on the scene. And it’s difficult to understand how we choose to pry into people’s private lives. But Cathy Housh, the mother of the teen, didn’t hesitate to speak with me. She realized that we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about suicide and that getting this subject out into the open will ultimately help to save lives. In fact, she’s made it her mission to push for legislation that will create programs to prevent it. I knew that reporting about teen suicide would be a tough sell for a woman’s magazine. And I applaud Good Housekeeping for running my article, ┬áin the April, 2016 issue. But it was a long journey, one that started when I turned in the first draft one-and-a-half years ago. Advertisers, the major source of revenue for magazines, typically don’t like to wrap their ads around an article focused on such a dark issue. Instead of the article being highlighted in the editor’s column as I hoped it would be, it was buried at the end of the magazine, surrounded by an ad for Clump and Seal cat litter and a promotion for heart medication. It would be ideal if the women’s magazines would give these kinds of meaty topics a higher profile. Still, it’s a start. And I feel gratified that my piece ran in a publication with a circulation of 24-million. It may be enough to get the word out about a tragedy that is becoming far too common among our teens.

Taking the Sting Out of the College Admissions Race

Each spring, we’re bombarded with articles about the continually increasing selectivity of the nation’s top colleges. This held particular relevance for me this year. My baby, and third born, will be starting college in the fall. I’m thrilled that she got into a highly respected college, one that was her top choice. But I’m even happier that this process is over. The stress leading up to this decision weighed heavy on both my daughter and her parents. I believe strongly that your self worth should have nothing to do with the college you attend, but everywhere she would go her senior year, the inevitable question would surface: Where are you going to college? My daughter is happy she can now answer that, but even more, she is delighted that she can focus on the excitement of learning. She is hugely relieved that the rat race to getting into college has ended. As stressful as this has been for her, it doesn’t compare to the pressures that so many other high school students face, because of the incredible high school she has attended. I discussed this in my most recent Huffington Post blog:

As a journalist, I tend to shy away from taking strong positions on issues I cover, but there’s one belief I will share, since I feel so strongly about it: We need to put an end to the unnecessary and unhealthy emphasis on college admissions.

Taming the Stresses of Teenage Life

My daughter was sitting at the kitchen table recently, overwhelmed with school work and keeping up with her many tweets and texts when she had a revelation: “Mom,” she said, “I think it’s much harder being a teen today than it was when you were my age.” I replied, “Yes, I couldn’t agree more.” Between the rigorous demands of schoolwork and extracurricular activities required to get into any respectable college and the relentless intrusion of social media that prohibits teens from ever unplugging, it’s rough being a teenager today. Young people feel the pressure to be perfect that they see manifested in Twitter feeds that show everyone else having a great time. Media image of coifed models greet them at the persistent click of a button. Online bullying has become commonplace. All of this is taking a huge toll on our teens. I repeatedly speak with other parents who share their stories of children in desperate need of mental health services. High school was once a time to be carefree. But so many teens spend these years engrossed in worry. It’s no wonder that many indulge in dangerous alcohol abuse as a response to the pressure. My daughter, an editor of her high school newspaper, plans to write an article about how teenage life today compares to that of a generation ago. I hope, in doing so, she’s able to shed some light on what we’re doing wrong, so we as a society can figure out ways to do it right before our youth are further compromised.