May 15, 2018
May is Mental Health Month. I have been asked to repeat a message I originally shared in August of 2014. There had been multiple teen suicides in Central Indiana at the time, and our students needed to hear something from us. We needed to talk about two difficult topics: death and suicide. The intent was not to dwell on either, but to send a message of love, hope, and faith.
This is the message I shared with them, and we continue to share as often as possible:
Today we are in the gym, a place we come to watch ballgames and theatre performances. It is where we celebrate Mass and listen to guest speakers. Today we are here for a family meeting. We are here for a serious talk about death, and about how precious life is.
Trying to understand death is difficult. Trying to understand the death of a young person is nearly impossible. I speak for all of the faculty and staff standing behind me when I say that nothing hits us harder than hearing about a young person who has taken his own life. It’s like a punch in the gut.
My guess is, as teenagers, you probably feel pretty vulnerable, especially the seniors. These young men were your age, and now they are gone. I know some of you knew one or both of the young men.
How do you make sense of it? There is no book that I can pull out that says, “This is how you should feel, and this is how you should deal with it.” We all handle things differently.
We always hear people say, “Everything happens for a reason.” Really? Everything?
OK, “Why did this happen?” What good could possibly come from this?
I don’t know the answer. I can’t speak to God’s plan – but maybe it was this. Maybe it happened so that gatherings like this would take place.
Maybe it happened so that 700 teenagers could come into this gym this morning and be told by the adults of the school: You are loved. You have value. You are not alone.
That’s the message you need to hear from us today: You are loved. You have value. You are not alone.
You are loved. I know for a fact that we love you. Every adult in this building loves each and every one of you. We love you individually and collectively. We didn’t become educators for the money, or because we love Math or Economics. We did it because we love kids. You are loved.
You have value. Sorry to pull out an old cliché: “God doesn’t make junk.” You are made in God’s image – You are His own. You have so much to share with the world. You have a song to sing, a story to write, a life to share. Without any one of you, our community would be incomplete. You are loved. You have value.
You are not alone. My favorite picture of Jesus is one in which He has His arms wide open, and little children are running to Him. How many times in Scripture do we hear, “Let the children come to Me”? You are His children. We are His children. He is always there for us. We are never alone.
Every single adult in this building is here for you. We have resources available to you – trained counselors, a social worker, administration, a Campus Minister, a deacon. You can talk to any of us – about these recent deaths, about your own struggles, about whatever is on your mind. You simply need to ask for help. You need to trust.
Another resource you have is the person sitting next to you. You have one another. When you are part of a family, you watch out for one another, and reach out to one another. You listen and console and reassure. You are not alone.
Our kids are vulnerable; they need to hear this message of love and hope. Please share the same message with them at home.