Kids might not talk like adults about suicide prevention, but they know the importance of “asking for help.”

by | Feb 11, 2013

When 7-year-old John Murray Jr. learns that the “s” word on an Army Suicide Prevention poster stands for “suicide,” he kneels down next to a table at Fox Army Health Center at Redstone Arsenal, AL and writes one big word at a time on each sticky note: ASK…… FOR….. HELP !!! as a reminder for Army people to ask for help (when contemplating suicide) and punctuates the note with five exclamation points.  Quote from this site…

“But Mama, why don’t they just go to the doctor and get better like Daddy did with his eyeball?”
Well, I explained that sometimes it is hard to ask for help. When you see someone bleeding or fall down you know they need help. You know you need to get them to a doctor. Like when Daddy was hurt someone took him straight to the hospital to see a doctor. But when you can’t see any injuries like blood or scratches on the outside of a person, you may think everything is OK. People may be really sad on the inside and want to end their life. That person may feel that if there is no blood or injuries that people can see, if they ask for help, that someone may laugh at them, point at them, or say they are weak.
John Jr. was silent and then replied. “Ms. Fletcher in Guidance at school (Endeavor Elementary) says that you are supposed to ask for help. That we are supposed to help not hurt each other. Like, if you can’t tie your shoe, you ask a friend to help. That is part of being a good citizen and friend.”

I do remember while growing up in my scary family circumstance, that as a young boy my thoughts were pretty clear about the “bad stuff” going on in our home.  But we were always too scared to talk about it, and stayed away as much as possible.  Dinner time was the most exposure to the family anxiety and anger, then we retreated quickly when it was really scary.  There were times, however; that we enjoyed watching TV when we first got one in our home.  That was a cool distraction and created a life bigger than our family, so we could take a break from all the fussing, yelling, and complaining.

One observation now from picking up on the little boy writing in the above photo and this story, is that if we had good coaching and mentoring outside of the home, my guess is we could have learned to articulate our feelings much better.  This is an excellent way to give kids and opportunity for reaching out and expressing themselves.  Keeping the “bad stuff” locked up inside is not healthy for a child.  I am so encouraged that in today’s world we have awareness and understanding about how moral injury and PTSD affect children and families as a whole.  In our schools today, especially where we have after-school programs like we keep an eye on the silent kids and try to engage them with their peers and activities.  The key to healing is always outreach and more outreach.  These kids then have a chance to get through the day a little easier and make it through often challenging times at home during evenings.  No matter what the circumstances of home life; good, bad or indifferent, children look forward to being connected to their peers and having positive adult interaction.  All of this makes for a happier and more confident child no matter what the day brings…

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
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