The most selfish decision an adult can make is to have a child. We don’t have children for the kids’ sake; we do it for our benefit. Those of us parents who recognize the selfishness of parentage go out of our way to give our children a meaningful childhood. We provide them with opportunities we didn’t have and attend every childhood activity because we know our time living together as parent and child is finite. One of the most unfortunate things about parenting is that our kids cannot know how much they mean to us until they experience being a parent. It is the only form of love that is truly unconditional. No matter how badly our kids screw up, they cannot impact the depth of our love for them.
This fact highlights the source of a significant parenting hurdle: lack of perspective. Our kids cannot have our perspective. They cannot know the wisdom of my grandmother’s words, “this too shall pass,” until they face and overcome significant adversity. Pain is a part of growth, and despite our efforts as parents to remove all physical and emotional pain from our kids’ lives, they must experience pain to grow. Frequently, perhaps too often, kids suffer pain without their parents’ knowledge. Ironically, those in the most pain never reveal the depths of their despair, suffering in silence even when multiple resources for help are available and known to them. This suffering can become a life-threatening illness.
Despite all of the resources in place to help kids who contemplate suicide, our kids are dying. If suicide is preventable, our community hasn’t figured out the antidote. Suicide is not a problem of parenting, schools, peers, or government. Deaths by suicide are a community problem that our community is failing to cure, despite significant and laudable resources invested in prevention programs. Often kids at the highest risk don’t reach out. That tells us that we, as a community, need to reach in. Our community response when a child is suffering from other life-threatening diseases is remarkable. We envelop and support the child and the family and go to significant lengths to ensure access to lifesaving treatment – no matter the cost. Our response should be the same with children suffering from the life-threatening illnesses associated with suicide. The first step to meaningful change is admitting our current measures aren’t working. Suicide is taking our children from their parents and our community. We have an obligation to respond to this threat in the same way we respond to any other threat to our community. A dedicated community task force is now needed to find root causes and develop meaningful, comprehensive and consistent approaches to the causes of suicide. Our kids can’t wait.
Tammi Fisher is an attorney, former Mayor of Kalispell and host of Montana Values Podcast.
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