Looking back after my son Charles Aubrey Rogers’ death, I see that he did exhibit signs of being suicidal. Of course I have often asked myself what I missed. I had been a mental health advocate and board member at Beacon Tree Foundation for several years prior to his suicide. Although I had been to one suicide symposium, I still did not connect the dots when it came to my own child.
Frankly, he didn’t check that many of the boxes on the list of suicide risks they presented that day.
His father and I have been married 30 years and I stayed at home with my kids (worked PT in a home office). We had a happy family and he was a happy child. He was also the funniest human being– charismatic, extremely creative, talented and loved people.
If you suspect your child is suffering from a mental health problem, don’t hesitate. Don’t put it off because today was a better day. If things are not going well at school, something is up. Period. It’s far easier to get compliance with a younger child. Teens can be uncooperative. But when they are little, you are their whole world.
Teens are masters at masking their depression. Stigma is strong and their will to hide it is even stronger.
It may not be depression but it’s something. Get a mental health assessment to start with.* It is typically covered by insurance.
If a child tells you they are or have been contemplating suicide, take it seriously. If you think they are “doing it for attention” then give it to them. The second attempt has a higher chance of completion.
Suicide Warning Signs
- Suffers from depression – Yes
- Feeling trapped – Not that I could tell but on his final day, I think this did apply
- Anxiety disorder- Yes definitely
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself – Not to me. But he did confess in his music lyrics
- Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun – No. But it’s likely he did look up ways to hang yourself. We just didn’t know it
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live – Not to me. But his last tweets definitely showed this
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain – Not to us. But in his writing which we didn’t see until after his death, he was clearly suffering from unbearable pain. He guarded this closely. His music was a red flag
- Talking about being a burden to others – No
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs – YES!
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly – YES! I think a cavalier attitude about death and risky behavior is a big red flag. He talked about people that died young and he’d say he was never going to have children and sometimes would say he’d never get married
- Sleeping too little or too much – YES. Sleeping too little but he had always had trouble sleeping since he was a toddler
- Withdrawn or feeling isolated – Never. He was hypersocial although he may have felt isolated
- Showing anger or talking about seeking revenge – Passionate but not out and out rage. He was angry God made him the way he did
- Displaying extreme mood swings – At times
- Depression – Yes although he never admitted to it
- Running away from home – No
Additional Warning Signs of Suicide
- Preoccupation with death – Yes. He’d talk about people who died young. Spoke of never having children. This did freak me out
- Suddenly happier, calmer – No
- Loss of interest in things one cares about – Yes. Seemed unmotivated sometimes
- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye – No. Looking back I think he was trying to tell me goodbye but that would have been an hour before he died. I heard this a lot in my grief support group, however. So I’d say this is pretty typical of many suicides, young or older
- Making arrangements; setting one’s affairs in order – No
- Giving things away, such as prized possessions- Not sure. He may have. I can’t find some things I had hoped to find and I wonder if he gave them away
While my son never admitted to depression, he was diagnosed with it by a really good PhD therapist. His assessment was very thorough and right on target.
However, one sign of depression that escaped me was that kids who suffer from depression get sick a lot. And Charles caught everything–cold, bronchitis, the flu and stomach viruses
*In Richmond, Call CMHRC (Children’s Mental Health Resource Center) at(804) 447-2124 to find out where to go to get an assessment.
**Source: Wall Street Journal: As Suicide Rates Rise, Scientists Find New Warning Signs