My heart aches for the family and friends of the two Parkland shooting survivors who took their own lives the last week. It’s déjà vu mirroring the pattern of suicides in the wake of the Columbine high school massacre in ‘99. Broward County agencies and parents held an emergency meeting to talk about how to prevent more losses in this already-grieving community. Additional mental health resources were dispatched, but I keep thinking, “we have to do better” on so many levels. This–and any– traumatized community knows the perils that linger in the wake of a tragedy and should sit in a reactive stance waiting to lose additional lives to survivor’s guilt or PTSD before mobilizing.
PTSD was originally used to describe the emotional challenges faced by soldiers returning from war. Now we know that everyday people endure the same symptoms after living through violent experiences, such as school shootings.
The National Center for PTSD estimates that 28 percent of people who have witnessed a mass shooting develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and about a third develop acute stress disorder.
These recent suicides so close to my own hometown–one specifically attributed to survivor’s guilt and PTSD– are yet another wake up call to the devastating effects of trauma.
Trauma and suicide are closely linked, with research demonstrating a clear association between those who have experienced trauma in any form and ensuing suicidal ideation or attempts.
Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among teens, according to the CDC.
Approximately one out of every 15 high school students report attempting suicide each year.
The suicide rate among teenage girls reached an all-time high in 2015, where the suicide rate increased 31% for teen boys and doubled for teen girls.
Knowing that more than two thirds of children will have experienced at least 1 traumatic event by age 16 , we have to get in front of this epidemic.
The Church is meant to be a hub of wellness and safety–Christ’s earthly presence of peace and healing for anyone in duress–especially the most fragile and vulnerable among us. However, we can’t sit back and wait for people to come to us and ask for help or mobilize once tragedy strikes. We ARE the Church, so the job of each and every one of us is to be a powerful God-full presence in the lives of every person in our sphere of influence. If you know 3 young people, chances are 2 of them are harboring hurt in their lives–but how will you be able to help if you aren’t building relationships with them? God’s heart breaks for the hurting in our community, and so should ours. I know He wants us to do more, to be proactive in where we spend our time –especially caring for young people. Trouble will come, and when it does, we need to be there ready to be a conduit broadcasting the lifesaving message of hope and prepared to connect those in need to excellent resources like physicians, therapists, counselors, support groups, accountability and a loving and supportive church community that doesn’t turn away when life is hard.
David’s words in the Psalms offer a powerful prayer of affirmation to speak aloud over anyone you know whose mind is being held hostage by thoughts of fear, doubt, shame, depression, or death:
Psalm 91 The Message (MSG)
You who sit down in the High God’s presence,
spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow,
Say this: “God, you’re my refuge.
I trust in you and I’m safe!”
That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps,
shields you from deadly hazards.
His huge outstretched arms protect you—
under them you’re perfectly safe;
his arms fend off all harm.
Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night,
not flying arrows in the day,
Not disease that prowls through the darkness,
not disaster that erupts at high noon.
Even though others succumb all around,
drop like flies right and left,
no harm will even graze you.
You’ll stand untouched, watch it all from a distance,
watch the wicked turn into corpses.
Yes, because God’s your refuge,
the High God your very own home,
Evil can’t get close to you,
harm can’t get through the door.
He ordered his angels
to guard you wherever you go.
If you stumble, they’ll catch you;
their job is to keep you from falling.
You’ll walk unharmed among lions and snakes,
and kick young lions and serpents from the path.
Help and hope are here
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the Lighthouse Network hotline (844) 543-3242.
For anyone wanting to privately reach out for yourself or on behalf of a loved one, my brother runs Honey Lake Clinic the largest, most highly accredited Christian Psychiatric Treatment Center in America. You can call my brother, David Hoskins, directly at (954) 536-9539.
“FastStats – Adolescent Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/adolescent-health.htm.
Eaton, Danice K. “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – United States, 2009.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4 June 2010, www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss5905a1.htm.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “QuickStats: Suicide Rates*,† for Teens Aged 15–19 Years, by Sex — United States, 1975–2015,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, August 4, 2017 / 66(30); 816.