WE DON’T LIKE to talk about teen suicide. It’s uncomfortable. It’s frightening.
But this isn’t about teen suicide. It’s about pre-teen suicide. Almost incomprehensible.
Actually, it’s a suicide attempt, and currently, the 11 year old boy is lying in a bed at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor on life support. The prognosis is not good. Doctors say, if he survives, he will likely be brain-damaged.
And before anybody cries, “You shouldn’t talk about suicides! It’s an invasion of privacy!”, the boy’s mother, still shocked and grieving and at his bedside day and night, has given her approval. She, like so many mothers she knows, feels it’s a story that needs to get out.
It’s not exploitation. It’s not being told for its shock value. Instead, it’s a cautionary tale for all of us who treasure our children.
It’s a story about one of our own–a lively, curious, charismatic kid who may have played on your son’s hockey or soccer teams here. He may have attended school with your children. It seemed that he was living the classic boy’s life with his two brothers in Marquette until last Tuesday evening, March 14th.
All right, the boy’s name: Tysen. It’s already out there, in hushed tones, at the schools, with the sports teams, among friends and neighbors. No use pretending it’s a secret.
His mother, who’s single, has talked extensively with the police. This is the story she’s now been able to piece together:
Tysen, all of 11 years old, somehow got involved with an older girl in a relationship that had lasted for a few months. His mother tried to discourage it and end it but she was unsuccessful. Tysen frequently texted the girl and contacted her through social media.
On Tuesday evening, the 14th, his mother says that he received a digital message indicating that the girl might take her life. Precisely who sent it and why has not been absolutely determined by police yet. Were other children involved? Was it a prank? That’s still being investigated.
What we do know, according to his mother, is that Tysen responded by saying that he would hurt himself.
He’d gone shopping with his mother earlier that day, they had made brownies together, he seemed to be in a good mood. And then he went upstairs to his bedroom, closed the door, and apparently started texting on his phone.
Exactly what was written has not been disclosed yet but police have the cell phone and they tell us they are closely examining all “digital evidence” in the case.
Tysen’s mother went to tuck him in bed a little later–a normal, nightly routine–only to discover that his bedroom door was locked and he wasn’t answering her. She was alarmed. She got her older son to unlock it with a pin, and then she rushed inside.
Her worst fear was confirmed. Her son had hung himself in the closet. A few more minutes and he likely would have been dead.
They got him down, rushed him to the hospital, then he and his mother were airlifted to Ann Arbor.
That’s where they remain a week later. He’s had seizures. His eyes open and close from time to time. He’s turned over in bed every hour. Family and friends come by to offer comfort to the mother.
And they hope and they pray.
And they wonder. How could it all come to this? How could an active, seemingly happy boy decide to take his life? How do children this young even get involved in something like this? They should be concerned about hockey games, skateboarding, and pizza parties, right?
So do we blame it on cell phones and texting? Social media? Peer pressure? Parents? Should schools take a more active role?
You certainly can’t blame the kids. They’re only kids, after all–10, 11, 12, 13. They’ve learned from us and the society we’ve created for them.
Look at the statistics. Suicides by American children, ages 10-14, have doubled in recent years.
The painful lesson we’re all learning in this new world of social media is that you can never be too careful with your children. They’re learning things that we never learned as kids, and they’re growing up faster. They carry powerful tools of mass communication in their little hands. They can be the victims or the victimizers.
So we need to talk to them constantly–about problems, relationships, mood changes.
And yes, we need to monitor–and limit–their involvement with social media.
All of this, of course, comes too late for Tysen and his family. He’s fighting for his life with his mother at his side in an Ann Arbor hospital room. They’ll need serious financial help in the weeks and months ahead. You can help them at gofundme.com.
Full disclosure: I’m a friend of the family.
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