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Rising from the Ashes of Teen Suicide

“In spite of everything I shall rise again; I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh
 

While I was catching up with e-mail last night, I overheard a story my husband was following on TV–a man served a long sentence for a crime he didn’t commit; when he was finally cleared of the charges, he could have chosen to be bitter toward the system that had forced him captive all those years, but he opted instead to be grateful for the truth which had finally set him free.

The story I overheard was certainly inspiring, but not more so than another story I heard at the writers’ conference I attended yesterday. Right beside me sat a woman who recently released a book written in honor of her son who took his life at the age of eighteen in 2005.

Like the man who was unjustly sentenced, this mother could have allowed herself to be swallowed by grief, but she chose instead to become an advocate of teens suffering from depression. Her son’s death was a terrible tragedy–anything the family tried, including therapy and medications, failed, and the teen continued to spiral further and further down until he could no longer cope.

I can hardly describe the type of inspiration one feels while merely talking to someone like Carolyn Zahnow; her research and understanding unfortunately came too late to save her son Cameron, but she is determined to employ what she learned throughout her ordeal to educate parents and teachers about telltale signs of depression in teens. When her son died she had two options–she could choose to gradually give up on her own life, and lash out at anyone who couldn’t share her pain, or she could stand back up and fight for the lives of other children; I’m happy to say she chose to do the latter. Her words to me were that helping other suffering children was the best way to honor the memory of her son

One life was lost; forfeiting her own would not bring her son back, but Cameron could continue living through other children if they can be helped before it’s too late. 

As a parent, I can’t even wrap my mind around the type of grief she goes through–just flipping through her book made my heart ache; while the right pages of it include much or the research she has done to understand what happened, the left pages are filled with writings and pictures from her son. I can only hope and pray that his anguished words will echo through time and space, and they will be the saving grace of other teens struggling with depression.

Kudos to you, Carolyn; I cheer your strength, and your devotion, and I hope that the trial and sadness you so bravely endured will indeed serve a greater purpose. May your words reach those who need to hear them most, so that nobody else’s children must be buried before their times. Good luck to you, and may God bless you for all that you do.

Who to call: If you’ve noticed signs or symptoms in your teen or any teen, call one of the following:

- Community mental health agency

- School counselor or psychologist

- Private therapist

- Family physician

- Religious/spiritual leader

- 1-800-273-TALK can provide useful information, names and numbers.

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