Monday, February 2, 2009


I worked for 30 years in the field of residential services for children and youth ... these are the kids that are no longer able to live with their families ... many of them had been bouncing around from placement to placement from an early age often averaging 5-6 placements over the span of 10 years ... the so-called "throw away" kids.

It is a known fact that children and youth in residential treatment programs are at high risk for suicidal ideation, gestures and attempts. In one large residential treatment center I worked at in the Midwest, two adolescent boys took their own lives almost one year to the day of each other ... both lived in the same group home although they never met each other.

During my career in residential services, I was in positions of responsibility and on call 24/7 to handle crisis situations which arise almost on a daily basis.

I was often called in to conduct a lethality assessment to determine whether a youth was actively suicidal and needed to be hospitalized for their own safety. I spent many hours of my career looking into the eyes of kids who had given up hope and were on the verge of taking their own lives.

I remember a particular youth I was called in to assess after he was caught trying to swallow a bottle of aspirin. It turned out that I didn't have to hospitalize him and after I returned home from the call, I wrote this verse:

Stay With Us

I spoke with him at home today
To decide if he could stay
He sat quietly and still
Knowing what I would say

He said he never meant to kill
It was for attention and a thrill
Things aren't always as they appear
Ending it all with pills

Within his eyes I saw the fear
A hollow look devoid of tear
Survivor of a dark and painful past
From a childhood twisted year after year

A need for love so vast
So many dreams already smashed
Another chance to make it last
Hold on to us hard and fast

It has been many years now since I last saw him ... he was twelve then so he would be about 37 now if he made it. I am hoping he did.

Teenage suicide is a major problem for the children and youth of this country and the single highest cause of death among our kids. It is important that we know what causes kids to want to harm themselves and how we can respond to them when they become depressed, angry and suicidal. Their lives depend on us.

1 comment:

The Rambling Taoist said...

I too worked in children's services for many years and was the state's crisis intervention person with two residential facilities. It always struck me as tragic that these kids were often not that much better off in these facilities.

Yes, they were removed from abusive or uncaring parents, but life in a facility -- as opposed to a home with people who love and care about you -- can be abusive in its own right.