Somewhere in the stack of five-subject notebooks that I used as journals in high school lies a letter that I wrote to myself. During one of the rare moments when I imagined what it would be like to grow into adulthood, I remember being terrified that my adult self would try to abandon who I was as a young person. I remember imagining myself as one of the many careless adults I knew who laughed at my teenage isms, and I felt sick.
So I sat down and penned a letter to my adult self, imploring her to remember what it felt like to be so helpless, so exhausted, and so terrified as a young person. My younger self was worried that her anxiety and depression really were a "phase" that she would grow out of - as everyone ensured her she would - and that as a grown-up she might become calloused to the very real pain that she knew was an epidemic among young people.
I haven't seen that letter in years, although I do know it is in one of the boxes that I haven't opened since I left home seven years ago. But I remember how sternly I worded it, asking what I assumed would be a relatively cruel adult to find people like me and tell them that they mattered and that I believed them. At fourteen or fifteen years old, I was already begging twenty-something Rebecca to be a better kind of person. I wanted - in the extremely unlikely event that I actually lived to see my twenties - to be the person who did the ugly work of meeting other people in the midst of their pain, instead of pretending that it didn't exist or wasn't important.
Thinking about this today, I realize that I was likely not the only teenager whose main concern was about being a better adult than the ones I had access to at the time. What did I want to be when I grew up? Someone who cared. Someone who didn't forget.
What do young people want? To not be overlooked by the people on whom they must depend. What do hurting people want? To be cared about by those who have the privilege of not worrying about how they're going to live to see tomorrow.
A quote has been floating around the internet for some time now that says, "Be the person you needed when you were younger." I want to be that person. It's why I write.
In the last decade, suicide among young people ages 10-17 has risen over 70%. Children are literally dying to be heard, to be seen, and not to be forgotten.
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. You can learn more about it from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. September 9-15, 2018 is World Suicide Prevention Week. You can learn more about that from the nonprofit organization To Write Love on Her Arms. Finally, you can look for suicide prevention and awareness walks and events in your area. Specifically, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention sponsors dozens of Out of the Darkness Walks across the United States. You can find one in your area here.
If you're in the Central Indiana region, please consider this your personal invitation to join me at the Indianapolis walk on September 15, 2018 at White River State Park. Find more information about it here.