Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter

December 2016

Nobles Parents' Newsletter December 2016

"Important Next Steps" by Director of Counseling Jen Hamilton, Licensed Psychologist



After a suicide, we all have so many questions. Among them is, "How do we talk to our children to make sure that something like this never happens again?" There is a many-pronged approach: In the immediate term, advisors and counselors have been reaching out to students; members of the community have been reminded of counseling resources both on and off campus; students have been given suicide-prevention hotline resources; and there are some key messages that Nobles is imparting, which I will share below. Later this winter, after the community has begun to heal, formal education and training around suicide prevention will begin.

There is also some really important work that parents can do at home. In the email that I sent out on Friday evening, I wrote a bit about a conversation to have with your children around knowing that no matter what the problem, you can work it out together.  I'd like to take this opportunity to provide a bit more guidance around this essential conversation.

Often, when our children come to us with a problem or worry, it is our inclination to say "Don't worry about that," and maybe even tell them why it's not a big deal. We want our kids to be happy, and it is really hard to bear their sadness and disappointment. But they are worried. If we tell them that they shouldn't be, it won't stop the feeling; eventually, it may just stop them from telling us. The most important words you can use will be, "I'm so sorry, do you want to talk about it?" Or even just, "I am here." So simple, yet so hard to do. 

It is essential that our kids know that if they have a problem or a secret, no matter how big or small, shameful or embarrassing, that they can bring it to you, that you will listen and support them, and that you can get through it together. Yet for some, here is the tricky part:  What if it is senior fall and your kid gets caught cheating on a test in the midst of writing college applications? What if he is questioning his identity or sexuality and this goes against your personal or religious beliefs? What if she tells you she is pregnant? What if he gets a B- on his report card, when all of his previous grades have been A's? Your child needs to know that no matter what the issue, you are going to be with them. We can't have it both ways: We can't want our kids to be mentally healthy and demand that they never make mistakes or disappoint us.You may not like what it is that they have to tell you; you may even be worried that it will negatively affect their future.  But the alternative, which might be having a kid who feels scared and alone and is not telling anyone, could be devastating.

As I mentioned above, here are some of the messages that Nobles is working to impart to all students in the coming days and beyond:

  • If you ask yourself what could I have done? Did I miss something? The answers are "nothing" and "nothing."  As stated by Dr. Michael Miller of the psychiatry department at Harvard Medical School, “Many people who commit suicide do so without letting on they are thinking about it or planning it.”
  • Suicide is about not being a good enough problem solver in the moment that one takes his or her own life. By this we mean that sometimes people are unable to understand that whatever is plaguing them, no matter how scary or shameful, there are always solutions other than suicide. 
  • It is easy to put oneself into a box—to think that people (parents, teachers, peers) expect you to be a certain way, and that any deviation from these expectations can feel unacceptable. We need to change this. A person is not a disappointment if he or she wants to quit a sport or an instrument,  gets a bad grade, is questioning identity, or looks/acts different from friends, siblings, etc. 
  • The risk for another suicide goes up after a peer has killed him/herself. We need to look out for each other. If you are concerned about yourself or someone else, go to your parent, advisor, counselor, coach, etc. It is essential to talk about it even if you are scared.
  • We want to honor and commemorate every member of the Nobles community who passes away. Every life deserves great recognition. But we cannot glorify the act of suicide. It is not ok to kill yourself. We will honor Jane by working tirelessly to ensure that every member of our community knows that no problem is too large to solve, and that we never have to worry alone.
  • Think of one person you can talk to if you have a shameful secret. There are also 24/7 crisis hotlines.
  • It is OK to cry and express your grief whether you're a boy, girl, kid, adult, friend, or someone who didn't get along with Jane. It is OK if this loss reminds you of other losses in your life. It is OK if you are having trouble concentrating. It is also OK if you are not feeling sad, or if you have fun and laugh even if you're sad sometimes. These are all normal.

If you are concerned about your child, or want to talk more about what you or the school can do to ensure the mental health and safety of our kids, please don't hesitate to contact me at JHamilton0f@nobles.edu.  You can also reach out to Mark Spence, Dean of Students; Mary Batty, school counselor; or Dr. Rick Wilson, psychologist/counselor.  

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If you have questions, comments or suggestions for this newsletter, email Kim Neal at kim_neal@nobles.edu.