Here’s the thing: You and your friends can probably recite the warning signs to look for when someone you know is in crisis, maybe even contemplating suicide. Don’t get me wrong: it’s important to recognize these red flags, like changes in a friend’s personality, eating and sleeping habits, attitude toward school, and on we go. But it’s even more important to know what to do to prevent these downward spirals from occurring in the first place. Kids usually talk to other kids long before they talk to adults. You and your peers know what’s up. So, why wait until someone you know is in crisis? Doesn’t it make more sense to get ahead of the curve and figure out how to operate from a position of strength? When things get tough for a friend (or you), networks of peers and trusted adults will be in place. You’ll have solutions up your sleeve and will be ready to hit the ground running. (More about this in Chapter 9.)
A Parable as Told to Me by Scott LoMurray, Sources of Strength
It Goes Like This:
There’s a man who lives along the bank of a river near a waterfall. One day while out walking, he sees a kid caught in the current, about to go over the waterfall. The man dives into the water, pulls the kid to safety, performs CPR, and saves her life. This scenario happens over and over again. Sadly, not everyone is saved. It’s a losing proposition. Then he has an idea and walks upstream, away from the waterfall and the heavy current. He figures it might be better to hang out where there is less danger. In a safe place, the kids can learn how to swim and how to avoid the potential disaster of falling over the waterfall in the first place. And if they do somehow get close to the edge, they will have the tools they need to find a way to avoid the fall and make it to shore.
You’re smart. You get the point. This suicide prevention thing starts upstream, where things are not in turmoil. You hang out with your friends. Right? Maybe you have a new song or cool app you’d like to share. Maybe you talk about some stupid thing you did and how it feels bad. If you are failing chemistry and may have to go to summer school; if you are smoking too much pot or drinking too much; if you’re having trouble getting out of bed in the morning and the rest of the day is a struggle, chances are either you’ll speak up or your friends will suspect something is going on. Good friends hang together and help each other out. You are each other’s first line of defense.
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