|You are not
coming back in this classroom without your parent.
On November 14, 2017 I was visiting a school. As I was leaving I saw a teacher yelling at a female teen student.
The teacher had a very attacking tone of voice. She was holding a folder and shaking it in a motion similar to hitting the girl with it.
I wasn't sure what she said, because it was in Portuguese. So I asked the English teacher who was walking with me. He told me she said, "You are not coming back in this classroom without your parent."
The girl was already leaving. She was alone. She went down the steps and out of sight. I felt very bad for her. I felt protective of her. I felt empathy for her. I felt worried about her.
I know that suicide can be triggered by a relatively small thing. I could imagine the worst case.
I could imagine that this girl had no father. I could imagine she lived with her mother and she was terrified of her mother. I could imagine the mother hit the girl and yelled at her. I could imagine she had no trusted friends. I could see that no one came to her defense. I could see that she was alone.
I could imagine her saying to herself "I can't tell my mother I got kicked out of class. She will kill me."
I can imagine her not having anyone she could talk to. I can imagine her feeling totally alone and terrified.
I can imagine the girl going home and over-dosing on pills to try to kill herself so she would not have to suffer the pain of telling her mother. Or I could imagine her going to a park and hanging herself. I know if too many similar stories to forget that these are real possibilities.
I can also imagine me talking to the girl after the teacher yelled at her. I can imagine me asking, "How much do you feel cared about by that teacher, from zero to ten?"
I can imagine her saying "Zero" or even "Negative ten."
I can also imagine me asking "How much do you feel afraid of that teacher?", and the girl answering "10."
I can also imagine me asking her, "How much do you feel afraid of your mother?", and the girl answering "10" or even "100".
In my idealistic vision of a better world, we would all ask children and teenagers how much they feel cared about by their parents and by their teachers. We would ask how much they feel afraid of them.
I believe if children and teenagers felt sufficiently safe and cared about, there would be no more teen suicide.
I really believe this. My belief is based on over 20 years of work with depressed teenagers.