Emotional Intelligence | Stevehein.com


15 Year Old Kills Herself In Salta

This week I found out that a 15 year old girl here in Salta killed herself. She did it while I was in Europe in July. I was afraid that would happen. Not that I could have stopped it. But maybe I could have. What if I had started talking to teachers and students in her school? What if I had happened to meet her? And had given her my email and cell number and introduced her to some people who would have listened to her? Would she have contacted someone? Maybe. I think most people would really rather live.

I have been in the building where she went to high school. It is the same building where they teach English to future English teachers at night. I have been there several times. Never did I think that a girl who had been in the same building every day would kill herself within the next few weeks. I wonder what will it be like to walk in there again? Would anyone understand if I start to cry?

I wonder what it would it be like to walk into a classroom where she sat just a few weeks ago?

I wonder how her classmates feel now? How her teachers feel? How the school director feels? Would anyone welcome my help? Would they let me speak to the students?

I am writing about it now in kind of a detached way, like it is some hypothetical case. But it isn’t.

I will never know her. I will never know if she was like so many suicidal teens – sensitive, intelligent, creative, talented, different. I will never know what she had to offer us. None of us will ever get to benefit from what she could have contributed.

I was thinking about her when I woke up this morning. And I started to cry. I wonder how she would feel if she knew that I were crying over her… someone who never met her. I wonder how her parents feel and what they are telling themselves, and if they feel guilty or realize that they failed to give her a safe place to talk. I heard she was pregnant. So really the world lost two people.

In South America it is a shame to the family if an unwed girl gets pregnant. Some families actually kick the girl out of the home. My friend Fernando told me this happened to his grandmother. She wasn’t even a teen. She was 23. But they kicked her out.

Fernando also told me he thought about killing himself a few years ago. Is this because he has low emotional intelligence or because he comes from a family with a history of problems? What kind of mother would kick their own daughter out just because they got pregnant? Who would do such a cruel thing to any person, let alone their own creation? ….and to an innocent baby. What happened to his grandmother that she would do that? Or is she “evil”?

Another friend of mine here, Vicky, 18, sent me a text today saying she was wanting to join her friend. Her friend of the same age killed herself while Vicky was in another city in March. And another girl I met here told me her best friend killed herself one day when the two weren’t in the same city. But it takes more than just being there to prevent a suicide, or does it? I don’t know. I know that when I feel suicidal, I want someone to be there with me. To hold me. To comfort me. To listen to me. To accept me just as I am in that moment.

I think I could have prevented that suicide last month…had I just known the girl. I feel some resentment towards the people who didn’t help me in June when I was trying to get psychology students and university students to help me set up a teen suicide prevention program here. I wanted to get it set up before I went to Europe. But they all had their reasons why they didn’t want to help.

I can’t stop the killing in Iraq, or in Lebanon, but I can stop suicides in Salta.
I want to teach English here but I feel guilty for even spending time on that when I know someone else is going to kill themselves here. It is just a matter of time. How do I reach them first? The schools hold the key. The parents fuck up the kids and teens but the schools see them everyday. The schools could be preventing the suicides here.

A teacher could get to know each student individually. A teacher could find out that the girl was pregnant, that she was having problems with her parents and her boyfriend, and that she was thinking of killing herself. But it would have to be a trusted teacher.

Let me make this very clear…

Teens kill themselves because they have no one they can trust.

They have no one they can turn to when they are in the most need. They have learned they will be punished and invalidated when they share their deepest, most private feelings. They have learned they will be betrayed. Teens don’t want to tell an adult who will run and tell everything to the teen’s parents. Some would rather kill themselves than face their parents.

And please do not be tempted to blame this on the teen. The parents have created an atmosphere of fear and mistrust. Children and teens don’t create the family environment. Parents do. Let’s be very clear on that. The people with the most power create the living environment, and those are the parents.

Some people here say that the 15 year old killed herself because of her boyfriend. They make comments like “How could she kill herself over something so stupid?” But the teen didn’t kill herself because of her boyfriend. She killed herself because her life has been full of emotional pain. Her life lacked emotional support, love and understanding. I don’t need to meet the teen or talk to any of her friends to know she had problems in the family. I plan to do some research, but I can promise you that I will find out there was a history of family problems.

We will never know the invalidating, hurtful things the parents said to this girl before she ever met this boy. We will never know exactly how they set her up to take her own life at the young age of 15. But we can be sure that the parents set the stage and the teen merely played out the role she was given by them.

Yet a teacher could have saved this girl’s life. One teacher. Just one is all that this girl needed. So why don’t the teachers save lives instead of just standing in front the students, giving them things to do which are unrelated to their personal lives and their emotional needs, and then leaving?

We can’t really blame the teachers because they are neither trained to save lives, nor are they paid for it. In some countries there are now lots of school counselors and school psychologists. Yet teens are still killing themselves in these countries. So the system is not working. One problem is the issue of trust. In some countries the school psychologists are required by law to report things to the police and to the parents. There is no doubt in my mind this leads directly to the death of many teens. I know that some teens would rather kill themselves than have their parents find things out and thus suffer even more humiliation, degradation, punishment, scorn, disapproval, and guilt trips

One thing some teens do is they get on the Internet and chat with someone who they can trust, someone who will listen to them without judging them. I have written before that the Internet is a lifeline for teens like this. But I have also reported that some parents, such as Ocean’s, will take away the Internet even when a life is at risk. The parents would rather take the chance that the teen will kill themselves than risk being exposed as incompetent parents. Many people probably find this hard to believe but I have seen it often enough to know that is a sad reality.

I urge anyone reading this to try to help change the laws so parents cannot deny a teenager Internet access like this. Nor take away their cell phone or deny them any other means of communicating with people who can save their lives. Ocean’s father is an extreme case, but he is not the only case. One reason unfit parents are unfit is because they are too afraid of the truth. They are too insecure in other words. If they could handle the truth, the teens would be able to talk to them, they would be able to tell the parents how they really feel and the parents would listen and not invalidate, laugh at, judge, disapprove of or punish the teen.

I am positive that this 15 year old was not able to talk to her parents. If she could have, she would not have killed herself. It is natural for a child to confide in their parents. When they do not, it is because the parents have taught the child or teen it is not safe to tell the truth. It is dangerous. So over the years the young person keeps more and more inside. Things build up until it is too much to handle. Suicide is seen as the only way to stop the intense inner turmoil.

I will try to investigate the history of this girl who is now forever gone. And I will try to report some of the truth. It will be painful for me to do it, but I know that if I don’t, no one else will.

S. Hein
Salta, Argentina
Sept 4, 2006