Who’s Responsible? A Youth Epidemic

In Gidion’s Knot, we get a look at a meeting we very rarely witness – a parent and teacher discussing the death of a student. The mother in this play meets with the teacher of her son, Gidion, who are both trying to process his recent suicide. Unfortunately, this is a problem not unfamiliar to our society.

In the United States , suicide is the third major leading cause of death among people ages 10-24,  and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) even labels suicide among youth as “a serious public health problem.”

Child psychologist Dr. Zachary Adams, who works at Riley’s Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, responded to the attempted suicides of two youth back in December 2016.

“It’s certainly not unusual to encounter young kids who have either attempted suicide or committed suicide,” Dr. Adams adds. “Odds are, if you’re somebody who has a teenager in your life, maybe you work with teenagers, odds are you’ve come into contact with somebody in the past year who’s really thought seriously about taking his or her own life.”

The Indiana Youth Institute did a study back in 2015 that found Indiana youth have a higher rate of suicide than any other state.

“Odds are, if you’re somebody who has a teenager in your life, maybe you work with teenagers, odds are you’ve come into contact with somebody in the past year who’s really thought seriously about taking his or her own life,” Dr. Adams explains.

Brandy Vela is another recent case of teen suicide. At 18-years-old, she took her own life by shooting herself in the chest in front of her family. She was bullied by several classmates at Texas City High School and targeted by these students online as well.

But what can we do to prevent situations like this? The school took responsibility and stated that they will no longer tolerate online harassment. However, after Brandy Vela’s vigil, students still bullied and harassed her through a social media vigil page set up by her family:

“After a few minutes, either four people or the same person posting four times said some things harassing Brandy about being a big fat cow, writing ‘you finally did it’ with a picture of a gun, writing ‘you’re a coward,’ ‘you should have done this a long time ago,’ some really horrific things, “ her father, Raul Vela said. “They’re still harassing her, but she’s no longer with us, so it’s more like they’re harassing me and my family.”

Whose responsibility is it to step in and who’s responsible for these teens’ deaths? The students who bullied them, their parents, or the school?  While we might not have an answer, we can help the victims of this harassment and attempt to prevent the deaths of innocent youth like Brandy Vela.

Dr. Zachary Adams’ believes the first step is for parents to be able to speak about suicide openly and directly with children if they notice that something’s wrong.

“One of the most important things is to listen and to talk to our kids. For understandable reasons, people may be reluctant to have a conversation with their child or somebody they care for about suicide. Sometimes it’s because people worry raising the issue might plant a seed. But what we know from clinical experience and research is that it’s just not the case. In fact, one of the best things you can do is be very direct. If you’re concerned that somebody might be depressed or having thoughts about killing themselves, the best thing you can do is ask that question, ‘Are you thinking about killing yourself?’ And opening the conversation and signaling that you’re a safe person to talk to about this scary topic.”

Read more about the Indianapolis teens here:


And read more about Brandy Vela here:



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