Happy Father’s Day from a Survivor

Father’s Day should be the positive of days for dads throughout the year. Better than birthdays. Better than Christmas. Even better than your family vacation. All the attention of your family goes into this day. And for your children, all their attention shifts from themselves to their fathers. Fathers feel proud, excited, joyous, and elated about their fatherhood. They, figuratively, slap themselves on the back for being a great dad. It’s a day we can spread our “fatherly peacock feathers” in glory and success.

I am a father who is considered a “survivor.” My 19-year-old son took his life as a sophomore at the University of Montana. No drugs were involved. Just depression that he kept to himself. Neither his family nor his friends suspected that his world was turning dark. And according to the CDC, suicide rates are up 60% in the last few years, and suicide is now the second leading cause of death for teens.

Father’s Day can represent a day where our youth really aren’t allowed to think about themselves. But, as a concerned father and parent, I offer here are a few signs that you should be looking for in your child:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Unnecessary risk-taking
  • Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Lack of response to praise
  • Looking for a way to access lethal means
  • Increased anger, rage or irritability
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Running away
  • Expressing hopelessness
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Talking or posting about death
  • Looking at suicide websites
  • An excess amount of stomachaches, headaches and extreme fatigue
  • Throwing out or giving away favored possessions

What can you do as a parent to prevent teen suicide?

  • Begin with conversation. Nothing will replace ongoing, positive conversation between your child and you. Be a great listener.
  • Create a no-cell phone dinner table.
  • Communicate with your teen about their feelings, their friends, their summer plans, and their long-term ideas.
  • Ask for help immediately.
  • Call 211 or 911 if there is an urgent need.
  • Avoid blaming or shaming.
  • Create a joint treatment plan.
  • Provide stability and security for your teen.

So, from one parent to another, I wish you a terrific Father’s Day. Have fun and hug your children. I used to believe that I was a great father. But great fathers would have caught their son’s depression and done something about it. To my twins, my two stepchildren, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren, I am most blessed to be their survivor and rock. Lucky me!

Elliot Kallen
President
A Brighter Day Charity
www.abrighterday.info
510-296-1103

Read about other ways you can address the mental health of your teen in our article, Mental Health Emergencies Need Assistance Beyond 911