Vt. mom who knows tragedy speaks out about teen suicide
Burlington, Vermont - January 20, 2011
Cathy Voyer is never far away from her son Logan. But things changed last spring when her 19-year-old son committed suicide.
"I'm a different person than I was March 30th, than March 31st or even the morning of the 31st. Once my son was gone my life changed drastically," Voyer said.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens. And the death of two Vermont teenagers this week has brought the issue to the forefront.
"It's time to step up to the plate for those who have gone through this tragedy and say enough is enough, we need to do whatever we can to try to prevent it in the future," Voyer said.
School psychologists agree. They say open dialogue is critical.
"I think it's critical parents address the issue with their kids in a developmentally appropriate way and also in a very direct and honest way, especially with high school students," said Dylan McNamara, the president of the Vermont Association of School Psychologists.
McNamara says parents should start talking to their children about expressing their feelings as young as 6 or 7 years of age.
"It's important to acknowledge to your kids that you don't have all the answers and this is an uncomfortable topic but it is an important topic," McNamara advised.
McNamara also says if your child isn't comfortable talking with you about suicide, you should encourage them to talk to other important adults in their life.
"Also important for teens to be educated in suicide so that if you child decides to talk to another friend in lieu of you or another adult, that their friend knows what to do and how to seek support," McNamara said.
"If you knew those signs before you would have done everything in your power to prevent it. So it's important for society to be educated about what to do if they see a sign," Voyer said.
Voyer stresses that it's important for parents to understand-- especially those whose children have taken their own lives-- that it's not the parents' fault. She copes now by focusing on the positive.
"I just embrace my son as if he was here today," Voyer said. "Every day I thank him for the time I had with him and that's what will get you through."
Voyer and others acknowledge it can be a difficult topic to discuss with your children. They say some questions that may get the conversation started include:
Have you ever thought about hurting yourself?
Do you know kids who have?
Also use the example of Connor Menning, the student who committed suicide at MMU, and ask if they are aware of what happened?
How are they feeling about it?
And what are their friends saying about it?
They also say the conversation between children and adults needs to be an ongoing one. And it's just as important as talking about sex or substance abuse with them.
Some of the warning signs people should be looking out for include self harm, dramatic changes in behavior and moods and even giving away belongings.
HowardCenter's suggestions for help and information on dealing with grief and suicide:
HowardCenter -- www.howardcenter.org
HowardCenter First Call for Children & Families -- 802-488-7777
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