This week has been a whirlwind at the Braner home. We found out this week that one of the students at our local middle school committed suicide, and our hearts are broken. We’re sad for the family, hurting for the other kids at the school, and trying to keep it together for our teenage daughter who is trying to navigate the pain of loosing a peer.
It’s a strange feeling to have your own pain pushing the boundaries of normal, and then feel the pain of another invade that space you try and protect. It’s as if the two feelings are like a train running uncntrollably until the ineviatable collission. Just waiting…wondering when…knowing it’s going to happen…and then out of no where pain consumes us both at the same time.
Then I received a call from a friend in Dallas who lost a family memeber, and I’m starting to feel like something is going on. Add another couple of kids in Austin, a teenager in Denver, and a family in western Oklahoma, and it seems like death has been the theme this week.
I asked Jamie Jo, “What is happening? Are we just more aware of things going on, or is there a plague sweeping across the country?” And of course, she had a few incredible insights…
1. Mental Health is still a Taboo
We still don’t have a good way of diagnosing mental health issues in our country, especially in teenagers. It’s a taboo – embarrassing, and kids don’t think they have anyone to reach out to when they have feelings of depression and self worthlessness.
How can we expect people to fight the chemical fight going on in their brains when we don’t have an environment that allows it to go on. And Christians are sometimes the worst. I’ve heard Christian leaders say “Mental Health is an illusion, and we need to have more faith to heal our brothers and sisters possessed by demons.”
Are you serious?
And to that same leader I say, “Why even have hospitals at all? Of course God can heal, but there’s a reason Doctors exists too.”
When faith people have health issues from the neck down they go to the doctor, but when it’s something going on in the brain, they want to pray that stuff out. Come on! How many people have to die before we rally around our neighbors who are sick? Love God/Love Others, Right?
2. Loneliness Is Still THE issue plaguing us
I wrote about this in my book ALONE: FINDING CONNECTION IN A LONELY WORLD. It was intended to be written to students to warn them about the negative consequences of living life online. I wanted to show our research about how people are being cornered into depression and loneliness through online profiles, clicks, likes, and sure enough, the day has come where it’s true.
We don’t know how to develop the tools necessary to have deep meaningful trustworthy relationships anymore. We’ve outsourced our friendships to texting, facebook, instagram, and twitter. And if you don’t believe me, tell me the last time you asctually put your phone down for a weekend without checking your messages? See…
And Students have it WAY worse than adults. There’s no real outlet for students to find those pain releases. They’re so busy doing the stuff that’s supposed to make well rounded adults, they’ve forgone the ability to just be who they are and live with people who accept who they are. They are living in an isolated world with little hope that community forms around them.
That’s why what we do in Colorado is SO IMPORTANT. At KIVU we give students two weeks free from online connection to develop REAL friends. They talk about REAL issues. They deal with REAL disagreements. They foster REAL adventures. And they tell REAL stories. It’s probably the most important way to make sure your student stays out of the loneliness bubble, to engage with others.
3. Let’s just be honest: This World is a Pain filled place
There is one constant in life, pain will find you. There’s no escaping bad things that happen in life. Nobody has the key to eliminating suffering. We are all under one banner called life, and we all have to deal with the daily grind. People offend us, Jobs are lost, Kids will disappoint us, and some days we just don’t know if it merits getting out of bed. And So…
We can choose to medicate our pain with substances.
We can choose to eliminate our pain, by committing suicide??
Or, we can find a big enough hope that the pain is overshadowed by the light of hope for the future.
And that’s the beauty of life. If we focus on the pain, we’ll always end with death. But if we focus on the life, and the hope that life is better somewhere out there…it motivates us to keep going.
That’s one of the biggest reasons I choose to believe in God. Of course, I can’t be absolutely sure that God is out there. No one can. I can’t be 100% sure that there’s an afterlife, I’ve never been there. And to all the detractors out there who want to argue these points, you can’t know for sure either.
We’re all choosing the best story to match our existance. We’re all looking for that glimmer of hope we can find in society, economy, or spirituality. But at the end of the day, we are all chooseing to believe in something. And that something is the only way we can begin to put the pain in it’s proper place.
It just so happens that my story contains a narrative where pain will someday forever be washed away, and life will continue on in the presence of the creator. Death will not rule on well past the the sting of pain. And that’s the hope I’m holding on to today.