Connectedness & Belonging

Last night, “Graham Moore won Best Adapted Screenplay for writing The Imitation Game. He told the audience that he had tried to kill himself when he was 16 because he felt he didn’t belong. To the outcast teenagers of today, he said, “Stay Weird. Stay Different.”

“One in five teenagers in the U.S. seriously considers suicide annually” according to data collected by the CDC.

By the numbers, research shows “teen suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people, surpassed only by homicide and accidents. More than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have mental or substance abuse disorders (depression leading cause). Examples of stressors contributing to disorders are disciplinary problems, interpersonal losses, family violence, sexual orientation confusion, physical and sexual abuse and being the victim of bullying” –American Psychological Association. Pyschological, environmental, and social factors combined with harassment and bullying lead to teens not feeling connected, supported or understood. Attention, recognition, and appreciation are the simple ways we can reverse this.

Speaking for Breaking Down the Walls and my experience working with teens, I’ve felt in teens eyes what Graham Moore said last night. High school is like one big emotional roller coaster. Acne, clicks, pressure, expectations, first kiss, gossip/rumors, drivers license, judging, belonging, homecoming, college, becoming an adult, the list goes on and on. In addition, discovering ones sexual identity has become more common during HS. It has also evolved into one of the leading causes to suicide. Never the less, beyond school, teens deal with their own real life stories including family dynamics and other stressful life events.

Cameron, childhood soccer team mate & friend of mine, committed suicide at a young age. 1 in 5 thinks about it and it’s not a topic most like to bring up but it’s real. From Breaking Down the Walls at High Schools across the country, I’ve seen shocking percentages of teens that have answered yes to: “do you cut or burn yourself, do you feel lonely on campus or been bullied, and have you thought about or attempted suicide?”

I’ve spoken with teens and heard bucket list dreams regarding: “I want to find inner peace, forgiveness, be the first to graduate HS, and be a psychologist to help others like me.” One of these boys had attempted suicide 13 times, the other 17. One had a close grandpa and dad both die within the last 6 months, another dealing with abusive parents, another harassed multiple times for her sexual preference, another for getting wrapped up with pills, and another for being accused of a violent crime he didn’t commit.

Warning signs according to the APA include: “talking about dying, recent loss, change in personality/behavior/sleeping patterns/eating habits, fear of losing control, low self-esteem, and no hope for the future.”

In conjunction with Graham Moore’s acceptance speech, my goal today is to bring awareness and inform about a topic I’ve witnessed growing among teens. More importantly, I call everyone to see those who are sitting alone at lunch and go invite them to have lunch with you and your friends. Tell someone how much they mean to you today; someone you may have not told that you admire them. Life is too short. Make someone’s day today because you never know when you’ll hope someone makes your day with a smile, hug, or compliment!

Everything happens for a reason, people come into our lives daily for certain reasons. Many times, people are looking for love or just want to be cared for/about. Here is the real truth… If you are reading this, this message probably isn’t meant for you. Think for a second, who do you know that doesn’t feel connected. (pause)

Like Graham Moore, many of us need to find an outlet. We need to find someone/something that understands us. Personally, freshman year of HS I felt very alone. Lunch time was the worst. I transferred to a school where I didn’t know anyone, I had a lot of pain going on at home, not to mention I was an only child with acne who struggled academically. All I wanted was a friend. For me, getting involved in extra-curricular activities was my outlet. For others who I’ve talked with, one connected with an author who really understood what she was going through and another turned to playing pick-up basketball to release stress and meet people.

“Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind.” Poet Henri-Frederic Amiel

Upcoming Webinars – Suicide Prevention (

The National Institute of Mental Health published on January 23, 2015 five upcoming webinars with professionals from the National Council for Behavioral Health and Action Alliance to address ways to save lives (click dates below for more details).

Helpful Websites & Resources:

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