It was my senior year of college at the University of Washington. I worked as a cocktail waitress at the Tally Ho, which were restaurant lounges in three hotels in Seattle. I had worked my way up from hostess to breakfast waitress to cocktails during my years in school.
One night at work, I got a phone call from a suicide hotline. (I need give a shout out to LA from Waking up on the Wrong Side of 50 for her post about her burn and reminding me of a scar I still carry.)
The person on the line said they received a call from a family member of mine who attempted to end their life. She refused to give me any more information and quickly hung up. I called back and learned the phone call was an error. They were not allowed to give out confidential information of any kind. They weren’t supposed to call me in the first place and could give me no further information.
My parents were going through a messy divorce. I remember feeling like gravity had disappeared and at any moment I would fall off the Earth.
I left work and drove home to Snohomish to our family home, which was 45 minutes away from Seattle. I remember commuting to school and staying home with Mom as much as possible. She was the person who called the suicide hotline and gave them my work number after slitting her wrist.
Weeks later, we were at Nordstrom downtown Seattle and Mom wanted make up for her scar on her wrist. I was mortified when she approached a woman at a counter and asked for help. She showed her scar on her wrist and the woman behind the counter after an initial shocked look, was gracious and found something for my mom to cover up the scar.
Unfortunately, my internal scar never went away.
I was taking a class at the UW in radio broadcast and I had to splice together a recording. I chose the Beatles song “Help” and wrote a piece about the suicide hotline. My professor was very concerned and wondered why I had chosen that specific topic.
I am amazed I made it through the quarter and graduated.
Speaking of scars, which ones do you carry with you physically or internally?
My daughter shared an article with me that she thought I’d find interesting for my blog. It’s from Teen Vogue — which she said is not behind a paywall — and has more interesting articles than fashion like “What’s hot for summer.”
In “Influencer Parents and The Kids Who Had Their Childhood Made Into Content” by FORTESA LATIFI, I learned about parents who cashed in on their kids on social media.
Here’s an excerpt:
Claire, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, has never known a life that doesn’t include a camera being pointed in her direction. The first time she went viral, she was a toddler. When the family’s channel started to rake in the views, Claire says both her parents left their jobs because the revenue from the YouTube channel was enough to support the family and to land them a nicer house and new car. “That’s not fair that I have to support everyone,” she said. “I try not to be resentful but I kind of [am].” Once, she told her dad she didn’t want to do YouTube videos anymore and he told her they would have to move out of their house and her parents would have to go back to work, leaving no money for “nice things.”
When the family is together, the YouTube channel is what they talk about. Claire says her father has told her he may be her father, but he’s also her boss. “It’s a lot of pressure,” she said. When Claire turns 18 and can move out on her own, she’s considering going no-contact with her parents. Once she doesn’t live with them anymore, she plans to speak out publicly about being the star of a YouTube channel. She’ll even use her real name. Claire wants people to know how her childhood was overshadowed by social media stardom that she didn’t choose. And she wants her parents to know: “nothing they do now is going to take back the years of work I had to put in.”
It would be easy to judge these parents as monsters. But, I am thankful Instagram and TikTok did NOT exist when my kids were young. Wait, I’ll retract my statement and call it exploitation of children. I guess that’s being judgmental, right?
I had Facebook when my kids were growing up and my pages were an embarrassing brag-site of my amazing, marvelous kids! It’s nauseating to look back on.
As my daughter got older, her friends would bully or tease her about awkward tween years’ photos I posted. She asked me to NOT post anything about her without permission. I mostly followed her wishes. Maybe slipping up a few times.
Although I look negatively at parents who use their children as cash cows, like I said, I’m glad it wasn’t something I had an option to do. Unlike TV and movie parents, there are no protections for kids who are content on their parents’ social media sites. The article goes into detail about how contracts with TV and movies have protections for children and they get money put into a trust.
By the way, I also didn’t think it was right for swim parents to put pressure on their swim kids to earn college scholarships. I had a weekly column about swim parenting HERE. Too much pressure, period. However, if a scholarship did happen, that’s icing on the cake of all the valuable lessons and friendships gained through sports.
I look at the harm social media has done to our kids who grew up with it. Suicide, depression, anxiety and eating disorders are running rampant. I wonder how these teens are doing who were used as influencers since toddlerhood?
I have a weekly zoom call where we talk about all sorts of current subjects. We are a variety of ages, religions and a spectrum of political persuasions. One of the topics we’ll talk about next week is social media and our youth. Here’s A LINK to a Surgeon General’s Advisory from the Department of Health and Human Services that I received from the group yesterday. In the article is a pdf from the Surgeon General.
What thoughts do you have about parents using kids as influencers on social media? What thoughts do you have about the affects of social media on our youth?
I was listening to a podcast yesterday while driving to and from the post office with my Frango client gifts. I didn’t hear all of it, but what I did hear was disturbing. Our youth are in a mental health crisis. One in five contemplate suicide. Suicide is skyrocketing. Mental health has reached a crisis level and there is a shortage of mental health care professionals.
The podcast was quoting from a recent Washington Post article. (I’m not a subscriber so I looked for other free resources online.)
New research shows the number of teens with suicidal thoughts were already rapidly growing before the pandemic’s mental health impact.
The number of 5 to 19-year-olds who were hospitalized with suicidal thoughts jumped almost 60% between fall 2019 to fall 2020.
“We need to really start thinking about the root of it all and looking at how we can prevent and intervene a lot sooner for our youth,” said Dr. Brewer.
When I was growing up, I didn’t hear much about mental health or suicidal thoughts in youth. I’m sure it was happening, but not talked about. But I’m also sure it wasn’t at crisis proportions that it is today.
What do you believe the cause is? What has changed from decades ago to today that affects mental health? Was it isolation due to COVID? Is it isolation due to smart phones? Is it bullying online? What other causes? Please discuss.
Saturday marks the first birthday that my daughter’s college teammate isn’t alive to celebrate. He committed suicide in December 2021. His birthday was July 2. He would have turned 25.
My heart hurts for all those who lost this amazing young man, including my daughter. I cannot imagine how his mom is able to get through this “holiday weekend.” He was especially close to his sister and she posted a loving story with photos on Instagram that I read and burst into tears.
We became close to the family at swim meets while our kids were in high school. We often sat with them at college dual meets and the PAC 12 championships.
I think many people left behind carry guilt. “If only I would have called.” “If only I could have let him know how much he meant to me.”
From the UCLA Health website:
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people age 15 to 24 in the U.S. Nearly 20% of high school students report serious thoughts of suicide and 9% have made an attempt to take their lives, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Recent weeks have brought heartbreaking examples of this trend, including the March 1 death of Stanford soccer captain Katie Meyer, 22; and Ohio State football player Harry Miller’s revelations that he attempted suicide, shared his struggles with his coach and got help. Miller announced his medical retirement from football on March 10 in a Twitter post that’s been shared more than 10,000 times.
“This is not an issue reserved for the far and away,” wrote Miller. “It is in our homes. It is in our conversations. It is in the people we love.”
I’m grateful for the support my daughter is getting on the loss of her friend and teammate. Her distance coach is calling and checking up on her. She was the one who called my daughter to break the news. Then, she got a call from the head coach. He told her that he was there for her if she ever needs to reach out and that he loved her.
I’m grateful for my son, his girlfriend and her family for living so close and being there for her. I also am thankful for Waffles and his unconditional love and affection to my daughter.
I’ve been worried about my daughter because she just moved into an apartment for the first time in her life living alone. She’s extremely sad and my calls with her haven’t helped. Like I said earlier this week in a post, “I don’t know to say.”
Everybody grieves in their own way. My husband said he compartmentalizes everything and brings it out a little bit at a time when he can face it. I’m the opposite and want to dwell and talk and work through the process immediately. I don’t think any way is right or wrong. But we need to have connection with other people for love and support.
I feel helpless that I can’t give my daughter hope. She told me that everything is miserable and she has no hope that anything will ever change. I know she’s hurting and I pray that after she attends her friend’s funeral in a few days that she will find some comfort among his family and friends who love him.
I can’t wait to see her next week to tell her in person that I love her and give her a big hug.
How can you give someone hope? Is there anything more painful to a parent than seeing their children hurting?
Not to get too morbid, but the past two weeks have been hellish. I feel my last week’s posts have focused on death. But it’s what is happening in our lives. I feel raw from the sadness of losing our friend Mark, and then I got a phone call late Friday night from a fellow swim mom. It’s not like her to call me. We haven’t talked much since our daughters graduated college with our swim parenting days behind us.
She started the call by saying, “I have something awful to tell you, but it’s not about Kat or Megan.” Kat and Megan are our daughters who swam together at the University of Utah. It was about one of their former teammates. He committed suicide.
I was getting texts and calls. Everyone was worried about my daughter and how she’d take the news. She was at work, and I asked everyone to talk to her once she got off work. In the end, her coach from Utah made the call and they cried together. Then my daughter went to her brother’s house and sat with his girlfriend. I’m so thankful and grateful to have them so close.
I am devastated for the loss of this young man of 24. He was the type of person everybody wanted to be around. He was tall, good looking, smart, funny. He had a hearty laugh that was contagious. He was so polite and well-mannered that when we went out to dinner with him, he’d stand when I got up to use the bathroom.
I’ve heard from swim moms that his teammates are devastated. Nobody had a clue that life was less than perfect for him. Nobody knew that he was suffering. There weren’t any signs.
I cannot imagine how his family is doing. I enjoyed his parents so much and often sat with them at swim meets beginning in high school through college. His older sister is one of my daughter’s best friends and the three of them spent tons of time together.
I asked my husband, “How much pain are we able to take?”
This makes me worry about the mental health of our youth more than ever. I want to know if social media has made depression and anxiety worse? There’s a difference of three years between my son and daughter. Social media was only MySpace when my son was in middle school and early high school. By the time my daughter was that age, social media was so much more prevalent and popular. Is this a result of growing up on screens?
I had this conversation with my daughter before this tragedy occurred. We were talking about anxiety and depression. She thinks that people her age and younger are much more open to getting treatment. And that they are more open to talking about mental illness. She doesn’t think social media is causing more young people to have depression or anxiety. She thinks the numbers are going up because more kids are getting treatment.
I tend to think it may be a combination of many factors, social media included, and her generation being more open to talk about mental health. I think I’m searching for a reason. Something to blame for the loss of this young man’s life.
What is your opinion? Do you think mental illness in teens and early 20-year-olds is increasing? Or are they more open to discussing it? What do you see as the causes?