The recent well publicised spate of teenage suicides has reminded me of a time in my life when I was confronted with something I was profoundly unprepared to handle.
Five years ago I had just started writing and posting fanfiction, when I met a lovely girl online. In the course of our conversation I found out she was a young teen. For the first time in my life I was faced with things I had no idea how to handle; depression, bullying, abuse, neglect and a GBLT teen. I was middle-aged, had wonderful parents, got on great at school, and was struggling with my own sexual identity at the time. I felt I had nothing to offer my friend. We lived on different timezones and I would wake up to heart-breaking emails threatening suicide and words that scraped at my soul. I didn't have any of the knowledge and experience I have gained in the last five years. I felt useless to help her and so did our friends.
What did I do in the face of my inadequacy? I spoke to my child protection officer at my church, I looked up research online, I looked for organizations that could help, but more to the point I, and many, many friends listened to her talk. She wrote poems; raw, painful poems that explained more than a thousand lectures the isolation that teenagers like her face. We read them, we listened, and she knew that at least online, she wasn't alone.
That was five years ago. She travelled half-way around the world to meet me. She coped, and she lived. I've lost contact with her now, but I won't forget her.
Recently, I started to follow Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook, and from there other blogs, such as Enough is Enough and Stop Teenage Suicide. I wish I had had them five years ago, when I felt so uselessly inadequate. Just this page on suicide support would have been helpful.
I'm not writing this to say oh look at me how wonderful I was. I'm writing this to highlight that there are places to go if you are confronted with a teen in need and feel as inadequate as I did. Week after week we are confronted with the knowledge that teenagers cannot cope without support. Sometimes, neither can the adults. That's what makes these communities and blogs so valuable.