How To End Child Suicide
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in children and young adults between the ages of 10 and 24. How can we stop it?
“This is it.”
The woman across from me said this as I told her about this crazy idea we had in our heads.
This idea that we, my business partner and I, could change the world by building a generation of children who knew how to process their feelings intelligently so they don’t end up depressed, anxious, and mentally ill and instead create more life.
In the process, it became clear that we could also eliminate child suicide in the execution of turning this idea into a profitable company.
So I set out to make that a milestone for our company:
"Eliminating child suicide from this planet."
I’ll share how we can do that in a bit, but first I want to share a simple conversation that changed everything.
On my search for other partners for this product, I met this woman through a mutual friend, and her name was Stephanie Hershey Schoolmeester.
She had been doing social and emotional work with children for the past 31 years, so to say she had skin in the game was an understatement.
In fact, Stephanie had the “Secret sauce” that would quickly leave an impression on not only her school but on the entire district.
She was known for being able to take the children that struggled with their behavior, emotions, and academics and help them shine.
Administrators, colleagues, and visitors always commented on how different her classroom was because of the environment, and the fact that the children were thriving.
Even the ones who were struggling before.
So the question would arise, what exactly is she doing?
How was this one woman, helping kids thrive inside and outside of the classroom, no matter their starting point?
It's something that not many of us have heard about, but it's also fair to say that Stephanie had many skills that she’d use to help children, but the “Secret sauce” was something special.
It's called Somato Respiratory Integration (SRI), which is defined by EpiEnergetics as, “The integration of focused attention, breath, energy, and movement with specific declarations consistent with the Stage.
This is an embodied approach to an expanded physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual experience of healing with the organizing forces and rhythms of life, essential for the current and future shift of humanity.”
Within a short time, she was asked to be the very first social and emotional specialist and taught SRI among other social and emotional strategies and modalities in an elementary school.
Not only to students, but she was partnering with administrators to teach this to other teachers as well.
As the student body really began to excel, she was asked to be on the district-level team where she worked with a team to plan and implement this social and emotional learning throughout the schools in the district.
She coached the emotional specialists throughout the district. Things were going well, it was her dream job, but some things occurred that had caused Stephanie to step back from her role.
Although not actively engaged with it, she was hopeful in the implementation process and the impact it’d have.
Unfortunately, in the implementation of this new curriculum, the schools and Stephanie were struck with horrible news.
Within a short 40-day period, five children had lost their lives to suicide.
"5 Kids Dead In 40-Days"
Five kids in 40 days. That’s not a typo.
This is not just an isolated event either. In Andrew Solomon's heart-wrenching but captivating article, "The Mystifying Rise Of Child Suicide" he shares an in-depth and heartbreaking story of a 12-year-old boy who ended his life by jumping off an apartment building.
As Andrew puts it, suicide is a "Burgeoning mental health emergency."
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10-18 years old.
We have a quiet epidemic of child suicide that is climbing and we’re not even paying attention to it.
I got consumed quickly with solving this problem when I saw it, but when I realized I wanted to find a solution I naturally asked myself a question that all of us want to know.
"Why Would A Child Choose Suicide?"
What is it that causes a child to do the unthinkable and end their own life?
Especially when they have so much life and possibility ahead of them.
This is a question that I answered through using hypnosis with over 100 people to overcome mental and emotional conflicts such as depression, social anxiety, fear of failure, all the way down to addiction, and anger problems.
When I work with a client, I am not too concerned with the problem they actually come to me for.
Instead, I’m interested in why they created what they are dealing with.
The root cause of why they came to me.
In discovering that I take them through a timeline regression process in which they suddenly find themselves remembering particular past events in their life.
Some go as far back as to memories in the womb, it's very interesting I’d say.
However, over 90% of the time (yes, I calculated it) my clients went back to memories in between the ages of 5-12.
I had a client who felt like his life was falling apart because he couldn’t stop drinking alcohol. He said to me, “I can’t even enjoy myself outside anymore. I can’t be happy.”
So during one of our sessions, he found himself in a memory in which he was getting yelled at by his father for being awake “past his bedtime.”
His dad punished him and at that moment my client came to a conclusion in his five-year-old mind:
“I’m a bad kid.”
I then asked him if he thinks bad people should be punished, and he said “Yes.”
In other words, he believed that he was bad based on a single event.
This story played in his mind for the next 47 years.
Causing him much insecurity that drove him to the point where he drank, because it was a form of punishing himself for being “bad.”
Why did I share this story with you?
Because it shows you that children tell themselves stories about themselves like this all of the time, and these are the stories that run in their heads over time.
If you believe that you’re a bad kid, you probably also believe that you’re not good enough, wanted, loved, or important.
These beliefs create a lot of insecurities and even fears towards oneself.
And if you believe that you’re not good enough or wanted, do you see how suicide could seem like a sensible option to some people? Especially children with young and susceptible minds?
I spent one evening reading a thread full of people sharing stories of surviving a suicide attempt.
In sharing their story, most of them were sharing why they attempted suicide in the first place, and here were some of the most common phrases that were used when explaining why they did it.
“I felt like nobody would even care if I died.”
“I thought I was a burden on everybody.”
“I felt like I had no point in living.”
“Nobody ever listened or paid attention to me.”
When I saw this, it became clear to me.
The only reason somebody would kill themselves is that they genuinely believe at some level that they are not worthy or deserving of living, regardless of what’s going on.
What event or series of events caused them to feel that way is not the ultimate thing to focus on, it is the belief or stories that are running in the heads of these children because of their interpretation of these events.
Just like my client believed he was bad, children all over the world believe they are unworthy, undeserving, and unloved -- even with a close family.
These thoughts of inadequacy, less than, and burdensome create feelings that make these children feel conflicted within and about themselves.
But that’s not where the problem ends.
The Bigger Problem
Children feeling so conflicted to the point where they have to kill themselves is tragic, but it is not the right problem to focus on.
The real problem to focus on is that our children don’t know how to successfully handle and resolve these emotional conflicts.
This is not only present in our children, however, but many adults also lack the know-how on how to process their thoughts and feelings in a way that allows them to thrive.
The traditional education systems, especially in the US, are not built to address this problem.
They aren’t broken, they simply are not built to meet the entire needs of a multidimensional human being that consists of wide experiences thoughts, feelings, and personal perceptions.
And the only way a child can receive any form of adequate help with their mental and emotional health is to work one on one with a therapist or counselor.
The problem is most therapy sessions are $60-$120/hr, making it impossible for most families to get consistent support (which is necessary.)
And even if we gave the entire population a billion dollars each, there are simply not enough mental health professionals to meet the demand.
Therefore the biggest problem is the lack of adequate and accessible mental and emotional support and guidance for just about anyone, especially children.
However, to an entrepreneur like me, this is great news.
This means that there is an opportunity to fill a gap that is needed for children all around the world.
There is a solution waiting to be discovered with the right questions. It's time we began asking ourselves new questions, one of which is,
“If we had a decade free of suicide, what one human attribute would have been responsible for such an outcome?”
And after a few seconds, the answer was screaming clear.
We needed to nurture a generation that could “Bend and never break.”
Real Resilience: The Solution To The Problem
To say that resilience and resilience alone can solve the problem may sound a bit far out, but if you stay with me you’ll see how this is the only way to solve this problem.
What does the word resilient even mean?
According to The American Psychological Association, resilience is “The process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands.”
In short, resilience is the ability to have the mental and emotional capacity to bend and come back.
To say challenges won’t be a part of the human experience is delusional.
And to set out to remove them would be the stupidest venture one can embark on.
It's not a matter of removing challenges, it's a matter of cultivating the mental and emotional skills to be able to come back to ourselves.
What I mean by coming back to ourselves is to come back to the reality that we are always loved, worthy, and more than enough just as we are. No matter what.
This is the truth.
Nobody is born unworthy of the life and grace that they are.
And if children not only knew this but felt this in their nervous systems, they’d never feel the need to do something as severe as ending their lives.
These beliefs and stories in their minds live in their bodies as well.
If a child believes they are not loved or wanted, it's easy to feel lonely and isolated from the world.
When you feel isolated, despair sets in.
Persistent feelings of hopelessness become physically exhausting.
Therefore by changing a child's beliefs about themselves, their worth, and value as a human being they will physically have much more energy that can be used for moving their lives and mankind forward.
When a child is truly resilient, they will never forget who they are and will not question whether or not they are worthy, loved, or accepted as they are.
Of course, they’ll experience challenges as we all do through life, but they will never be consumed or overcome by an external circumstance again.
This is resilience, and with it, a child would never do the unthinkable.
Resilience isn’t “mental toughness” -- it’s having the emotional capacity to use every thought and emotion in a constructive way that brings you back to yourself.
Your whole self.
How To Build Emotionally Resilient Children
Okay, you want your child (and yourself) to become more resilient.
How do you do it?
Well, there are a few parts to it, but the answer is simple:
Teach them how to intelligently process their thoughts and emotions fully.
When I say intelligently, I mean to teach them the skill of not just handling their thoughts and emotions, but using them to build a thriving life.
This means allowing the expression of their full humanity with all that it comes with and not teaching children that emotions are somehow bad or something to be scared or ashamed of.
When children feel they their feelings of thoughts are bad, they naturally think bad of themselves -- and we’ve already addressed how that can create suicidal thoughts and actions.
Before I get into some actual ways you can do this, I want you to understand as the parent that all emotions and thoughts are okay to have.
Encourage your children to feel their feelings and allow any thought that enters their mind to be seen as just a thought and nothing to be afraid or ashamed of.
The fundamental truth I’m pointing at here is that human beings are inherently whole and constructive in their nature.
If you carry ideas, as the parent, that human beings are somewhat faulty or bad in their nature then you will stop yourself from feeling your entire experience, and this will be watched and mirrored by the child.
It starts with us, and if we’re going to end (not reduce) child suicide, it’d be irresponsible of us to forget that.
So these things below are not just for children, they are for you, the parent as well.
They are for anybody that is human.
1.) Communicate to them through words and actions that they are more than enough, loved and worthy just as they are.
As a child is being brought up in their environment, they are observing and interpreting everything in their own way.
Many times, they come to conclusions that are not true.
Like a client of mine who was picked up late from baseball practice one day, as he sat there he concluded, “I must not be important if my mom forgot about me.”
Was it true that he wasn’t important? No, but he didn’t communicate that he felt that way because he felt like it’d bother her if he shared it and because of that, she didn’t remind him that he was important and that she was just late for work.
These little moments can be so impactful for a young child who is still in the development phases and figuring out how to navigate through their own experience.
If a child does not feel accepted, loved, or worthy they will risk the possibility of holding those feelings in and carrying them in their minds and bodies for decades.
So be sure you communicate more often than not, that they are always worthy and valuable as they are. Especially in moments of irritation.
I’m not a parent, but I’ve been around enough children in my life to know that sometimes they may push the wrong buttons on the wrong days and it may make you snap and do or say something that you don’t really mean.
Maybe you had a bad day at work and your kid asks “Why?” just a little bit too much and you turn around and yell “Be quiet, mommy is driving!”
If you leave it at that, they can easily interpret that event as, “Being myself makes people angry.”
This could be resolved by simply communicating after the fact, “I’m sorry honey, I’m not mad at you and you’re not bothering me, I just had a bad day at work.
I love you and your voice.”
A simple statement like this can or suggestion can be taken in and accepted by the child instead.
Those extra few sentences could change the trajectory of a kid's future. Communicate love, worthiness, and acceptance often.
Not just through words, but through actions more importantly.
A good book on this is The Conscious Parent by Dr. Shefali Tsabary.
2.) Cultivate Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is defined as “The capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”
Which I believe is a beautiful definition.
Emotional intelligence is a natural skill we all have the capacity to learn, and being sure to cultivate it in your children will be the best thing you can do for them as human beings.
A few practical things that you can do to nurture and develop this skill are listed below.
1.) Allow expression.
As we covered before, it’s important that a child is allowed to be as they are when their emotions come.
This does not mean that you let your child run wild, it means you do not minimize or deny any of their feelings in such a way that can lead to them feeling shameful of who they are and begin suppressing those parts of themselves and continue doing so as they grow older.
Help them understand that the human experience contains the entire emotional experience that comes with it too.
Normalize them feeling okay for feeling what they feel.
Let them speak up more.
Let them use their voices.
Let them play and be silly.
Let them be themselves.
Allow them to follow their natural curiosities and discover their own unique talents and gifts.
When they discover them, encourage the use of them more often than not.
2.) Build solution orientation thinking.
Help your children see every emotion as feedback and a message, not something to be overcome by or dwell in.
When children see emotions this way, they see opportunities to overcome challenges by getting through them and facing them by feeling them as opposed to running away from feelings.
3.) Normalize failure.
When children get punished for making mistakes, they begin to associate pain with making a mistake or having a failed attempt at something.
Since our brains are hardwired for survival, we learn to avoid things that cause us pain.
So if a child grows up believing that it is dangerous to make a mistake, they begin suppressing certain desires they have and not fulfilling them because they become too scared to make an attempt at something.
Not just that, but they then identify themselves as failures simply because they “failed” or were “bad” at something.
Remind your child that sometimes it doesn’t feel too good to learn and try new things, even if we want to do those new things, but those unpleasant or fearful feelings are actually a normal part of learning something new.
Also, encourage their identity as a whole and worthy regardless of the feedback they get in life. Teach them that just because they fail at something doesn’t mean they are a failure, it just means they are learning, which is itself a huge success!
4.) Allow them to feel seen and be empathetic with them.
A very important part of building great coping skills is watching your parents demonstrate empathy.
This teaches you to soothe yourself and feels seen over time as it strengthens that neural pathway in your brain.
By being empathetic, and showing your child that you can see why they feel and see things the way they do, even if you don’t agree with them you will teach them to be empathetic with themselves.
When they have self-empathy, they will naturally work out a lot of their own problems.
This is a result of demonstrating empathy as a parent, for this is how children will learn it.
5.) Teach them how to listen to their bodies.
Bringing your child’s attention to their body will help your child be with their feelings so they can express what they are feeling.
When you notice they are happy, ask them, “How does happiness feel in your body?” Let them answer and describe it in their own way, this helps them understand and become more connected with their bodies.
When they are angry, anxious, or sad do the same thing.
Ask them how the feeling feels in their body.
Questions like this can really help your child get more in tune with what is present in their bodies:
“What are you noticing in your body?”
“Where do you feel the (emotion) in your body? Point to it.” “What shape does the emotion feel like?”
“What color would you give this emotion?”
“Can you describe how (emotion) feels?”
The whole point is to help them become more aware of their emotional experience and learn how to express those feelings through words.
3.) Teach your children practices that nurture emotional intelligence and mental health
Another thing we can do for our children is to teach them how to use tools that are designed to nurture the well-being of an individual.
These can be things like:
2. Breath-work (this is a great breathing technique to release emotions)
4. Somatic exercises
And things alike.
But these tools here are great things you can learn, experience and do with your child.
These tools strengthen and nurture the mental and emotional abilities that are necessary to demonstrate resilience.
It Begins With The One Reading This
If you are reading this, then I want you to know that ending child suicide is not about fighting external circumstances and conditions that are seemingly beyond our control.
It begins by sourcing the solution from within and coming back to ourselves.
We must be the first to do this.
Children do not learn by merely being taught and told what to do, they learn by observing their environment and modeling the people around them in their early development stages.
It is vitally important that you understand every single thought, emotion and action does affect your child in some way as they are in your energy and observe directly from it.
This creates experiences in their brains and bodies that build the neural pathways that support and strengthen the resilience we are committing to creating in these children.
If the adults ourselves demonstrate resilience and emotional intelligence our children will develop it.
When we raise a generation of emotionally intelligent and resilient children we will change the trajectory of mankind -- and I wholeheartedly believe we will see child suicide dwindle into the dust.
Not only that, but it can even solve the tremendous issue of mass shootings in the US.
If more humans felt whole, loved and accepted -- there'd be no need to do such things to others.
Remember that old saying, “Hurt people hurt people”?
Yeah, it's true.
And Finally, An Idea That Could Fill The Mental Health Gap Forever
“What if nobody had to hire us, like ever?”
A crazy question for two business owners to ask themselves, but one day Nicki and I decided to ask ourselves that.
The reason is that people only hired us when they were in crisis.
In other words, they only hire us when their emotional conflicts really become problems in their lives.
I am a hypnotherapist and Nicki is an NLP practitioner, and our job was to help our clients get out of the anxious and depressive states that they were in.
In other words, they only hire us because they don’t know how to resolve their own emotional conflicts.
So if nobody ever had to hire us, that meant that everybody has the skills to be mentally and emotionally fulfilled and healthy themselves.
They use their own medicine.
How awesome would a world be where therapists aren’t needed to do hourly sessions anymore with people who feel broken?
Better yet, what if there was a world where nobody, especially no child, ever had to be put on anxiety and antidepressant medication?
I began getting a clear idea of how we could answer these questions as I did more and more sessions with my clients.
A typical session would look something like this:
A client would come to me to overcome fear, anxiety, depression, or bad habit.
I’d get them into a trance-like state and take them back to certain memories in their life to find the root cause behind the issue at hand, which allowed me to help my clients quickly overcome them.
I began to see that during every single session my clients were going back to moments that occurred between the ages of 5 and 12.
Without fail, whether it was anxiety, depression, addictions, or insecurities when looking for the root cause my clients would find themselves back in between these ages.
For example, I had a client who was experiencing a lot of anxiety, so much to the point where he couldn’t even sit still for two minutes or relax at all.
It even kept him up all night.
He said he even had thoughts of suicide at times because it was “So hard to just be awake.”
So I took him through a session to get to the bottom of it so he can deal with it and resolve it.
While in trance, he went back to a memory of him being given alcohol for the very first time at the young age of 10 years old.
Drinking it, he quickly became intoxicated and in his state of intoxication he felt “out of his body.”
I then asked him why he felt like that, and he replied, “Because I’m a bad kid who doesn’t matter.”
I then asked, “How do you know that to be true?”
And he replied, “Because you don’t give alcohol to a kid that you care about and love...So I must not be lovable."
In other words, this child told himself that he didn’t matter and wasn’t loved because of this event.
This belief of him being “bad” created feelings of tension that he was not equipped to deal with growing up.
Then at the young age of 24, he was finding himself living with chronic states of anxiety.
After he was able to see this false belief he created, he quickly changed it and weeks after our session his daily experience of anxiety just seemed to disappear.