It is with profound grief that I am writing this letter. This past week, I attended the funeral of a bright and apparently well-adjusted 15-year-old who committed suicide.
When adolescents are tragically violent against themselves or others, it naturally causes people to wonder how this could happen, and sadly there are often no adequate answers, only supposition. Parents now worry that their children, who appear OK, will do the same thing. We as a society can no longer address these questions posthumously with a few counselors brought into the community to help put the pieces back together. There could never be enough of us to meet the growing demand. We’ll never be able to remove all the guns, ropes, pills or other weapons of destruction.
It is for this reason that I would like to address the bigger issue of mental health education. I believe it is time to institute mandatory education curriculum to teach emotional intelligence in schools, K-12. We live in a world of extreme stress and alienation which is impacting all generations. There is no downside to EQ, Emotional Intelligence. Our children need to know how to access their emotional intelligence and master it — to understand their emotions, how to relate to them, and how to live with them. After all, they will have them all of their lives. This is essential at all ages of development, and it is particularly imperative when children hit the rough patches of puberty. The emotional roller coasters brought on by hormone upheaval, as we have seen time and again, can be deadly as the youngsters take desperate and drastic measures in reaction to their feelings. We need to teach them the tools and give them creative and rote experience to recognize, identify and manage their emotional states.
As a traumatologist and psychotherapist, I see the effects of poor psychological education, and emotional dysregulation everyday. Violence, victimization, bullying, drug use, sexual acting out, self-mutilating behaviors, murder and suicide are issues that are being addressed separately in communities around the country. All of these need to be addressed together first at the core level — and the place to start is with emotional intelligence education.
We grieve as a community for our children and for our country. Let’s enact some real change to address this now.
Noelle Damon, LCSWR, DAAETS, Holistic Psychotherapist/Traumatologist/Consultant, Diplomate, American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, Kingston