On Friday, Nick and I went to see Just Mercy. I’ve been waiting to see that movie since mid October. I heard about it while attending the 2019 Twin Cities Film Festival. By the time I heard about it, the movie was sold out. It was released in certain cities on Christmas Day, but, no where in MN. So, I was stoked for the release date.
Anyone who went to school with me, knows that criminal justice reform was my passion. I had hoped to work in policy to create change. The United States has the worlds highest per-capita incarceration rate. African Americans are incarcerated 5x more likely than white Americans. I wrote so many papers on the school to prison pipeline, disparities in first time offenses/misdemeanor’s for black and brown people, police brutality, and many more!
I was accepted into St. Thomas’s grad school program with a very generous scholarship. However, they only offered a clinical track. Clinical work was never really my dream, but, with the clinical training, it would make me more versatile. I could do clinical and policy work if I wanted to. If I got my degree in just policy work, I couldn’t do clinical. So, being a single mom and looking towards the future, I thought the clinical route was my best bet. Still, my final grad school research project was a Systematic Review on How to Reduce Recidivism among Female Offenders. I always thought that I would use my experience and passion to eventually work on criminal justice reform. That was my plan.
There has been a lot of attention on this topic lately because of this movie. The movie is based on a book by Bryan Stevenson. It’s about his first legal case overturning a conviction of a wrongly accused man in the 1980’s early 90’s. He is a Harvard Law School grad and the Equal Justice Initiative founder. He is amazing! It’s truly an incredible story and fantastic film. Please go see it. Also, Kim Kardashian is using her platform to go to Law school and work for the wrongly accused. Our criminal justice system is racist, whether you want to believe it or not. Privilege is believing that just because it’s not an issue for you, that it doesn’t exist. If you see this movie, hopefully, it will change your mind.
Have you ever heard the saying “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”
After February 6th, 2019, all the plans I made for myself and Aria were pointless and useless. Now what?
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Proverbs 19:21 “You can make many plans, but the Lords purpose will prevail.”
The Lord called me to be Aria‘ s mother at the age of 20. The Lord called her home at just 13 years old. The Lord has changed “my plans” from working in criminal justice reform to working in suicide prevention. I have been called to address a different “social issue.”
I’ve told people who have read this blog before, suicide is a scary thing. Even for therapist’s. Frankly, I don’t think we get ENOUGH training on how to assess, unless there is an obvious immediate threat. Aria’s therapist was floored when she found out that she completed. Why? Because she didn’t present any obvious symptoms. When I met with Aria’s therapist after she passed, she cried and said,
“Well, either she did this out of pure emotion and impulsivity without realizing the magnitude of her actions. There’s a invincibility complex in teenagers, maybe, she thought she would wake up. Or, she hid her depression really really well.”
American Health Rankings states that from 2012-2018 there were 15.8 deaths per 100,000 people in MN ages 15-24. It is higher than the national average!
Since Bugs passing, I have been following a local Facebook page. On the page, they celebrate the life of their son who died by suicide. Also, they post articles associated with suicide and prevention.
Below are JUST the articles associated with child and adolescent suicide within the last year.
1/9/20- Bullied/Sexual orientation- age 12
12/24/19- Sexual trauma/ depression- age 15
12/23/19– Bullied/Autistic- age 17
12/21/19- Harassed/threatened- age 14
12/12/19- Bullied/ ADHD- age 10
12/11/19- No details- 4th grade
12/11/19- Bullied/Covered up by school- age 8
11/28/19- Officer/depression- age 22
11/6/19- Bullied/Overweight- age 11
10/20/19- Sex trafficked/ Trauma- age 15
10/17/19- Bullied- age 10
10/17/19- Bullied brother and sister- age 8 & 4
9/27/19- Mental health/overdose- age 21
9/17/19- Bullied- age 9
6/13/19- TBD(My article about Bug)- age 13 💜
4/16/19- Bullied/Social Media- age 12
4/13/19- Bullied- age 9
3/10/19- Kelly Catlin(No details)- age 23
2/10/19- Bullied- age 13
1/22/19- Bullied- age 10
Each one of these articles broke my heart. Do you see a pattern? A commonality?
Recently, there was an article published that finally discussed what I’ve been trying to emphasize for a long time!
SUICIDE in young people is NO LONGER JUST a mental health issue, it’s a social issue!
Bryce Gowdy, a 17 year old football star, who received a scholarship from Georgia Tech, took his own life a week before starting classes. Bryce grew up in poverty, raised by a single mother. It’s hard to find people who want to have the discussion about poverty and its connection to the 73% increase in suicide attempts among black teenagers from 1991 to 2017 according to the journal Pediatrics.
The same way no one wants to talk about systematic racism, no one wants to talk about the truth behind the spike in suicide completion. We want to turn a blind eye to what social trauma, social media, bullying due to social status, sexual orientation, negative self and body image is doing to our kids.
Now, blaming it on mental health is easy. That makes it the deceased’s own personal problem. But, until WE as a society realize and address Suicide as a social issue just as much as a mental health issue, nothing will change and the numbers will continue to grow.
I love you and miss you, Aria Joy!!! Period. 💜
Oh, Laurie. How beautiful, wise, thoughtful, and loving. Just like you. Thank you for this, Sweet Soul. Thank you. Lilyan Nappie Levon