Hope in the midst of loss

By Samuel Moore-Sobel

Moore-Sobel

The holiday season is often a time where we stop to reflect and consider all that we’re thankful for. This year, however, might feel different from previous years. Are you feeling grateful this holiday season?

It’s been a hard year for all of us. No one expected 2020 to unfold the way it has. Its effects are far-reaching, especially for children and young adults. How will they come through this experience? How are they handling the realities of social distancing?

Recent numbers suggest teenagers have been hit especially hard by the restrictions put in place as a result of the pandemic. “The pandemic has affected everyone, but mental health experts warn that youth and teens are suffering disproportionately, and that depression and suicide rates are increasing,” according to EcoWatch.

I’ll never forget the first time I encountered a teenager struggling with suicidal thoughts. In high school, I was involved in a program called PEER (Positive Experiences in Educational Relationships). One of our responsibilities was mentoring middle school students. Through the program, I was asked to mentor a quiet and thoughtful middle school student. I asked him an array of questions to get to know him better, but to no avail. Until one day, he told me he often thought about taking his own life.

Upon learning this news, I was overwhelmed with sadness, especially at the thought of this young man never having the chance to live his life.

When speaking to groups, I often share about my own suicidal thoughts after suffering second- and third-degree burns to my face and arms. Trauma has a way of invading the mind. I lacked the life experience to know that my unhappiness would change in time. My grief over what had occurred seemed all-consuming. I couldn’t fathom waking up one day and not being in pain.

Eventually, though, the pain did lessen. My desire to live increased, because I realized I had so much to live for, even if it didn’t always feel like it. I found a way through my pain and used the experience to inspire others through the recent publication of my book. Yet the happy ending wasn’t always assured. It makes my heart break all the more to read about teenagers struggling with mental health during these unprecedented times.

When my mentee told me what was on his mind, I didn’t know how to react. I couldn’t offer a simple remedy. All I could do was listen and urge him to keep going, even if it felt impossible to carry on. He asked me to keep what he had revealed a secret. The rules of the program dictated that I had to report what he told me. “You did the right thing,” my teacher told me after I informed her of what had happened.

The experience helped me see my own struggles from the perspective of my parents. Years later, I asked my mother, “Is that why it hurt? When I thought about suicide?” In response, she said, “We felt like we lost you once because of the accident, why would we want to lose you again?”

2020 has been a year of loss. But my hope, as we end what is being referred to as the “lost year,” is that the pandemic’s losses will decrease. That those who are struggling will find hope. That those who need help will find resources. One resource that I have been a long-time supporter of is the Ryan Bartel Foundation—a non-profit

It’s been a hard year for all of us. No one expected 2020 to unfold the way it has. Its effects are far-reaching, especially for children and young adults. How will they come through this experience? How are they handling the realities of social distancing?

Recent numbers suggest teenagers have been hit especially hard by the restrictions put in place as a result of the pandemic. “The pandemic has affected everyone, but mental health experts warn that youth and teens are suffering disproportionately, and that depression and suicide rates are increasing,” according to EcoWatch.

I’ll never forget the first time I encountered a teenager struggling with suicidal thoughts. In high school, I was involved in a program called PEER (Positive Experiences in Educational Relationships). One of our responsibilities was mentoring middle school students. Through the program, I was asked to mentor a quiet and thoughtful middle school student. I asked him an array of questions to get to know him better, but to no avail. Until one day, he told me he often thought about taking his own life.

Upon learning this news, I was overwhelmed with sadness, especially at the thought of this young man never having the chance to live his life.

When speaking to groups, I often share about my own suicidal thoughts after suffering second- and third-degree burns to my face and arms. Trauma has a way of invading the mind. I lacked the life experience to know that my unhappiness would change in time. My grief over what had occurred seemed all-consuming. I couldn’t fathom waking up one day and not being in pain.

Eventually, though, the pain did lessen. My desire to live increased, because I realized I had so much to live for, even if it didn’t always feel like it. I found a way through my pain and used the experience to inspire others through the recent publication of my book. Yet the happy ending wasn’t always assured. It makes my heart break all the more to read about teenagers struggling with mental health during these unprecedented times.

When my mentee told me what was on his mind, I didn’t know how to react. I couldn’t offer a simple remedy. All I could do was listen and urge him to keep going, even if it felt impossible to carry on. He asked me to keep what he had revealed a secret. The rules of the program dictated that I had to report what he told me. “You did the right thing,” my teacher told me after I informed her of what had happened.

The experience helped me see my own struggles from the perspective of my parents. Years later, I asked my mother, “Is that why it hurt? When I thought about suicide?” In response, she said, “We felt like we lost you once because of the accident, why would we want to lose you again?”

2020 has been a year of loss. But my hope, as we end what is being referred to as the “lost year,” is that the pandemic’s losses will decrease. That those who are struggling will find hope. That those who need help will find resources. One resource that I have been a long-time supporter of is the Ryan Bartel Foundation—a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of youth suicide. Organizations like this one are available to those in need of support. Please reach out if you or a loved one needs help.

Even after all these years, I still wonder about my mentee. I hope he made it through middle school. I hope he went to college and embarked on a fulfilling career path. I hope he found someone to love and built a life he’s proud to live. I hope his story, like mine, got better with time.

Samuel Moore-Sobel is the author of Can You See My Scars? His book is available on Amazon. For more about the Ryan Bartel Foundation, visit www.ryanbartelfoundation.org


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