A Teen’s Suicidal Thoughts: I Thought About Death at 11

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I was 11 when I started thinking about suicide. Don’t get me wrong, I never made a plan or tried to kill myself. But when I was 11, I thought about killing myself more often than I do now. Maybe we all think about suicide at some point in our lives, but a teen’s suicidal thoughts somehow seem more shocking and unexpected. 

 I didn’t always think about suicide in a self-harming ‘I wanna kill myself’ way, but sometimes in a curious, maybe this is human nature way. 

At that time, around three years ago when I was in the sixth grade, I started feeling depressed and anxious but tried to keep it to myself. Depression and anxiety weren’t commonly discussed. I knew the basics, but I had no idea how far down depression could take me, especially at age 11. 

I didn’t know what was going on, I just knew that it couldn’t be happening to me because, outwardly, there was nothing wrong with my life. While I wondered if a teen’s suicidal thoughts might be more common than not, I also pushed back against my thoughts. I had no reason to feel like this. 

My parents weren’t abusive to each other or to me, they weren’t divorced, I lived in a nice neighborhood, I went to a good school, I was active in sports, and everyone around me seemed to be happy. Plus adults told me what a smart, pretty, and overall great kid I was, so why was I feeling this way? Why wasn’t anyone else feeling this? I was alone.

  • I distanced myself from my family and friends. 
  • I stopped sleeping well. 
  • I kept my bedroom lights off. 
  • I didn’t talk much or I hid behind always having something sassy to say. 

I felt like a hollow shell of the girl I was before. 

Did the suicidal thoughts come before the depression or was it the other way around? Does anyone know the origin of a teen’s suicidal thoughts?

I wasn’t sad, not really, more numb. I didn’t know what I was feeling or if I was even feeling anything at all. COVID-19 had just sort of ended without actually ending and I was scared and confused. My hormones were all over the place because I was beginning puberty. I entered middle school in a new school, with new children who suddenly all started trying to act like adults. Overall, my life was changing for the worse. I didn’t know how to label it besides “Puberty” and I felt scared and out of control. A teen’s suicidal thoughts don’t seem so far-fetched in this scenario. 

I considered a multitude of reasons why I felt this way. Was I being lied to, manipulated, or left alone at lunch? I did allow myself to stay in toxic situations that did nothing but hurt me, but I didn’t know better and just wanted to be with the people I considered “friends” for years. I was always the protector to my “friends” but I never tried to protect myself. I asked my mother for a therapist for a year, she told me she would look into it. She never did. 

I found some semblance of comfort by coming home and complaining to my parents almost every day about how “She did this” or “He did that.” I was 11 and confused. Now I have a new perspective and am surrounded by people who love me and care for my wellbeing. 

When I got help, I was officially diagnosed with Depression and Anxiety. It was a long road with a variety of tests and denial when my parents refused to accept these diagnoses. I saw multiple therapists and attended different groups for teenagers who needed support, like me. It was nice to see others that felt similarly. But, while the groups were helpful, they didn’t help in the way I needed them to. But they were a step in the right direction. 

A part of the problem was that I couldn’t commiserate or even share with my friends. Anytime I spoke about my mental health, they changed the subject or started talking about boys. I knew they didn’t care. 

I had told my therapist and my mom that I was cutting my wrists just to feel something and was sent to the hospital.

I told my friends that I was in the hospital and didn’t know how long I would need to be there. They asked me why I was there and asked if I was okay, I told them I had been hurting myself and finally told my mom. They joked that I was so lucky because I’d get grippy socks during my stay. I realized that I had no one to talk to. 

Teen girl sitting on concrete steps in the sun with her head in her hands.
Photo by Zhivko Minkov on Unsplash

I never felt like I belonged in school. Beyond having the potentially typical teen’s suicidal thoughts, I also felt like I was just a number among other numbers in the student body just surviving through the day. My classes were easy. Nothing stimulated my brain or kept me interested. No one, not even my teachers put forth time and concern for my well-being. No one seemed to care about what I needed as a student and a person.  

I dreaded school. My teachers treated me as if I was their friend and not a child. 

I am a high-achieving student who aims to get all As. I wouldn’t allow myself to take a break if I had a grade below an A. Even an 87% was bad in my mind. I needed to prove that I was good enough with my grades. If I was a straight-A student, no one could deny my intelligence. I needed evidence to show people how good I was. Any grade lower than a 95 told me I had failed.

I was initially prescribed medications that were supposed to help me when I felt overwhelmed (but that was all the time). So… I was better, right? I had pills to take for anxiety and I was all good, right? NOPE! 

The pills I was given did nothing to help me with anything I truly needed. 

I had a therapist but had not disclosed the information that my meds did nothing to her yet. The medications left me feeling emotionless which is how I ended up with bandaged wrists. If I told her I knew she would tell my parents and that couldn’t happen; this was my deadly secret and no one else needed to know. One day when everything came crashing down. I realized how sick I was. 

I had a doctor’s appointment with my pediatrician for a check-up and to talk about some of my mental health issues. I told him that I was always tired and never really felt like doing the things I used to love doing, and I wasn’t hungry often. Wanna know what he told me? 

He told me that I needed to drink more water and go outside more. 

He explained that I could be depressed, but going outside and drinking water would help me greatly. As you can imagine, that wasn’t very validating. There’s never a time when a teen’s suicidal thoughts can be fixed by water and nature. It’s like being told to go on a jog to cure your cancer. 

My mom bought Pedialyte, as instructed by my doctor, so I could be better hydrated. I drank it once.

That night, I got into an argument with my mother. I don’t remember what it was about but it had something to do with me not being responsible and staying in my room too much. She hated that I always had my lights off and never did much. I didn’t care about anything. I hadn’t done my makeup or brushed my hair in a week. I wore the same comfy sweatshirts over and over. I thought she didn’t notice it, but she did.  

I tried to get some time alone in the backyard, but my mom was unrelenting and made me speak to her and my dad. I cried and told them nothing then went upstairs, called my new therapist, and had a panic attack for an hour.

Now I am 14 and things in my life have improved. I still think a teen’s suicidal thoughts may be more common than not, but my suicidal thoughts have lessened. I have pills that work for me, a therapist who listens and cares, and a much better-informed family. 

There were a lot of sleepless nights and medications that only made things worse. I enrolled in an online school that challenged me and gave me a bit of a break from the world I used to live in. I started finding ways to cope with my feelings like writing poems and reading books about fictional people and their stories, and I also opened myself up enough to get the help I needed.

At 14, I’m in a much better place than I used to be. 

I’m not writing about my experience for pity, or so that anyone can try and help me or give me advice on how to live like them. I’m writing to show parents or anyone who wants to listen how bad it can get even when you’re 11. If you’re a parent, I don’t want to scare you but listen to your children when they tell you something important. A teen’s suicidal thoughts are not something you should brush off or a reason to call your teen dramatic. Be there for them because that’s the most important thing you can do. 

The world is different than the one you grew up in. Our experiences are not comparable. The world has changed, pressures have changed, life has changed, even from just 10 years ago. 

Kids today are constantly held under a microscope, not just by adults but by other kids too. Kids judge other kids way more harshly and vocally than they used to. We are expected to know who we are, what we want, who we want to be, and where we are headed, all by an impossibly early age. We don’t get a lot of time to just be kids. Adults around me used to say “Just go climb a tree, that is what we did at your age” but no one actually lets us.

I think when you guys were kids, there may have been one ostracized weird kid who watched anime or had his own strange interests and who sat alone during lunch because he said weird things and smelled funny. Now, any kid who doesn’t have the newest iPhone, or doesn’t take the best vacation, doesn’t wear cool clothes, isn’t dating, and doesn’t put on makeup every morning before school is the weird kid. 

If you, at 12 years old, are not striving to be perfect, like the influencers on Instagram, then you may become the subject of ridicule. And not just to your face or in a note, this teasing is online and shared with the world! 

Please listen to your kids when they tell you something. Particularly when your teen shares about their suicidal thoughts.

Things that might sound unimportant to adults could be pulling your child into an abyss they do not know how to escape. If your kid comes to you complaining about friendships or how bad their school is, listen to them. Try to find a solution if that’s what they need, don’t leave them in that situation where they can continue to be hurt. If your kid comes to you and tells you they want therapy or think they’re depressed, listen. 

Just because you ask your child “Are you okay?” and they answer “Yes” does not mean they are. Keep them talking. Find out more. Check in often. 

Talking about mental health as a child is very hard, so parents need to look for the signs of depression and mental illness, not the words. Keep finding ways to support them. Don’t drive them away, but be there to guide them in a direction that will benefit them. Actions speak louder than words, so get to your kids before it’s too late. 

Guest Writer

The author is a courageous and intelligent 14-year-old high school student in Vermont.

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A Teen’s Suicidal Thoughts: I Thought About Death at 11

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