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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A kid and suicide: Not exactly your Prairie Home Companion

Picture this. He's 14, and big for his age, tall, strong, built like a wrestler. And he is an athlete, actually. A very good one.

But he's had this cloud over his head for as long as he can remember. Like many kids with this particular burden to bear, cloudy outlook on life, he's struggled desperately with academics, barely passing but getting by most years. At this point he can't concentrate at all. He's far behind. No use in trying, really, he says. He's always sad, always has been sad. His thoughts are dark, gothic, and violent.

Of course his body image is TERRIBLE, complicated by the fact that his face suffers the plight of adolescent boys who have a fair amount of testosterone. I can barely believe there's a great looking guy in there but I know there is. His parents say he's seen a dermatologist. I say, push that doc a little, would you? Take it MORE seriously.

Our Boy writes poetry, death poetry. I've seen a lot of kids who write suicidal poetry like this. It's a good release.

If you see the new Garrison Keilor movie, A Prairie Home Companion, you'll get a bit of Lindsey Lohan and her character's suicidal poetry. Lindsey's character is lucky because her mom (played by Meryl Streep) and her aunt (Lili Tomlin), are radio entertainers on the show.

Our Boy hasn't got that advantage. His parents are regular folks and they can't launch him a career in radio/television. But they believe in him as a person who has something to offer to this world. Lo and behold, there's a girl who's been calling him, too.

This poetry thing turns out to be an amazing advantage. He believes in his writing and not only does he believe in his writing, THE WHOLE HIGH SCHOOL BELIEVES IN HIS WRITING! All the kids try to get a glimpse of his notebook. He has to make copies at Kinkos of his entries (this was several years ago).

His parents believe in him, too. They're willing to send him to a poetry contest, in fact, one that I'm pretty sure is a gimmick to benefit the sponsors. But who cares? It's helping Boy's self-esteem.

Boy's parents recognized that their son had an endogenous depression, one that they both suffered as children and still suffer from as adults. We think it's genetic, since it presents so early without any radical environmental triggers. This is a loving family, if not usually happy.

Because of the clear history, his family doc tried him on a very low dose of an antidepressant and we watched him very carefully. Eureka! Worked like a charm.

I write this because there really is concern about overmedicating people and making poor choices vis-a-vis adolescents. Done well, with some good therapy, btw, medication can be a real life saver. Our Boy graduated and is now in college. Heck, by now I imagine he's blogging, not making copies at Kinkos.

I'm going to write the nuts and bolts about suicidal adolescents in my other blog, Everyone Needs Therapy real soon. Bare in mind that "Our boy" in the story above could very well be a girl, and "she" could be great at volleyball or track. But yes, she would be kind of tall and even without the testosterone, she would surely have acne. Our girl or our boy could have written folk songs, played electric guitar, had six holes in one ear or tattoos up and down both arms. I won't tell. I see you all in broad strokes, anyway.

Copyright 2006, TherapyDoc

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