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Another suicide: a nice young Jewish teenager

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Newton parents are reeling, ironically this last Valentine's day, because they learned of the third high school suicide during this school year. This time it was a lovely young man, an athlete, a child of a Hebrew school teacher, and one of the many comforters to his fellow high school friends after the last suicide. Jewish ethics forbids doing bodily harm to one's self or another. The former two suicides were students who showed some symptoms of a troubled mind, but this young man was a model. The mother, understandably, probably after discovering him, could not control her hysteria. Why not? Wouldn't every parent and grandparent search their behavior and want to be closer to his or her child? Wouldn't they scream out in agony trying to remember what were the symptoms, what did they do wrong, and what could they have done differently. Mainly the question would cloud over them: "Why couldn't my child have confided the troubles in me?
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We hear of celebrities committing such an act, perhaps by accident, or on purpose. If Justin Beiber were to be found in such a state, it wouldn't surprise many. So to answer these fears and their own, the Newton school officials held a meeting with the local experts offering quotable statements that comforted some but never all. The gnawing questions in each parent's mind was: Why would such an upright, seemingly well-adjusted, popular teenager choose to kill himself?

Sitting in our living room this past Valentine's day with our puzzled Newton family, my husband, a clinical psychologist offered an educated guess. With such a young man who seemed to have such a strong moral upbringing, perhaps he did something, was influenced to do something, or had something done to him, that was so bad in his own mind, that he couldn't tell anyone because he might have been so ashamed. This something was just beyond the pale and out of his moral character, that he couldn't live with it.

What to do?

Dr. Mark Goulston, a Newton psychologist who specialized in suicide, offers a list of possibilities for what could be on the potential suicide's mind. Essentially the basic premise is that nobody can stand to listen to the troubles, that are so bad, so terrible, it's better to leave the world and not confess the worthlessness that drowns out all comfort.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/just-listen/201102/what-your-teenager-wants-you-know-wont-tell-you

Full disclosure: I remember when my son was a teenager, I just lost it. I don't recall why, but probably most teenagers have experienced such confrontations with a parent. I do remember I screamed: "Remember this: even if you are in jail, even if you get in the most horrible situation, you are still my son and I will always love you and be there for you!" I have no idea how I came to this outburst, but there seemed to be a lesser moment when my grandson said, upon observing how taken I was with one of his friends who was so politically well-informed, so uncharacteristic I thought for a teenager, that he blurted out: "You probably love him more than me!" I didn't lose it was badly, but I replied in astonishment: "I can't love him more than you; you're BLOOD! That would be abnormal."

For more local articles on this see: http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2014/02/newton-suicide-stress and http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2014/02/third-teen-suicide-in-newton-what-can-you-say

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