Every 12 minutes, an American dies from suicide. Every day 105 suicides occur. In fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals who are ages 10-18.

Why? Why are young people, who have so much promise and potential, unsatisfied with their lives and the world they live in?

The most significant reason for these tragic statistics is due to issues that occur within our own schools. These include academic pressures and bullying. Young people spend the majority of their time at schools, even more than with their families. Additionally, with the rise of social media, issues that were not problems before arise.

Experiencing a toxic environment for a majority of their time, students encounter negative effects on their emotional and physical health. With this, mental health issues must be taken seriously. Unfortunately, time and time again, they are not. When it comes to an issue as sensitive as suicide, people tend to shy away from or fail to acknowledge the problem. When we fail to talk about these issues that affect so many people, how are we supposed to overcome them?

In fact, sometimes even the brightest students experience internal struggles. Cameron Lee, a former high school senior at Gunn High - was described by classmates and teachers as a straight A student, goofy, bright, and popular - ended his life by jumping in front of the Caltrain on November 2014. Lee’s story shows us that just like our world, suicide comes in all shapes, sizes, and forms.

Parents should not be outliving their children. Instead of undergoing a series of toxic events, youth should be living their lives, thinking about their future careers and goals, spending time with their friends and family. Being youth.

Finding a solution will not be a simple task: it may take days, months, years, or even decades. But what we can do now is take small steps in order to prevent this epidemic from affecting more youth.

As the place where youth spend most of their time, schools are responsible for providing students with effective counseling and helpful resources such as school therapists, clubs, hotlines, or even referral boxes - so that students who may not receive support at home or struggle to ask for support can receive the necessary aid for recovery.

But most importantly, youth must take action themselves. Using 12 minutes of your time could possibly help save someone’s life, so why not help your friend, your family member, or even a stranger?

Here is a paraphrased poem that somewhat illuminates the thoughts and experiences of those contemplating suicide and those suffering from mental illness:

Please Hear What I’m Not Saying
By Charles Finn

Don’t be fooled by me.
Don’t be fooled by the face I wear
for I wear a mask, a thousand masks,
masks that I’m afraid to take off,
and none of them is me.

Pretending is an art that’s second nature with me,
but don’t be fooled.
I give you the impression that I’m secure,
that all is sunny and unruffled with me,
that confidence is my name and coolness my game,
that the water’s calm and I’m in command
and that I need no one,
but don’t believe me.

My surface may seem smooth but my surface is my mask,
Beneath lies confusion, and fear, and aloneness.
But I hide this. I don’t want anybody to know it.
I panic at the thought of my weakness exposed.
That’s why I create a mask to hide behind,
a sophisticated facade,
to help me pretend,
to shield me from the glance that knows.

But such a glance is precisely my salvation, my only hope,
and I know it.
That is, if it’s followed by acceptance,
if it’s followed by love.
It’s the only thing that can liberate me from myself,
from my own self-built prison walls,
from the barriers I erect.
It’s the only thing that will assure me
of what I can’t assure myself,
that I’m really worth something.

But I don’t tell you this. I don’t dare to, I’m afraid to.
I’m afraid your glance will not be followed by acceptance,
will not be followed by love.
I’m afraid you’ll think less of me,
that you’ll laugh, and your laugh would kill me.
I’m afraid that deep-down I’m nothing
and that you will see this and reject me.

So I play my game, my desperate pretending game,
with a disguise of assurance
and a trembling child within.
So begins the glittering but empty parade of masks,
and my life becomes a front.
I idly chatter to you in the suave tones of surface talk.
I tell you everything that’s really nothing,
and nothing of what’s everything,
of what’s crying within me.

So when I’m going through my routine
do not be fooled by what I’m saying.
Please listen carefully and try to hear what I’m not saying,
what I’d like to be able to say,
what for survival I need to say,
but what I can’t say.

I don’t like hiding.
I don’t like playing superficial phony games.
I want to stop playing them.
I want to be genuine and spontaneous and me
but you’ve got to help me.
You’ve got to hold out your hand
even when that’s the last thing I seem to want.

Only you can wipe away from my eyes
the blank stare of the breathing dead.
Only you can call me into aliveness.
Each time you’re kind, and gentle, and encouraging,
each time you try to understand because you really care,
my heart begins to grow wings–
very small wings,
very feeble wings,
but wings!

With your power to touch me into feeling
you can breathe life into me.
I want you to know that.
I want you to know how important you are to me,
how you can be a creator
of the person that is me
if you choose to.
You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble,
you alone can remove my mask,
you alone can release me from my shadow-world of panic,
from my lonely prison,
if you choose to.
Please choose to.

Do not pass me by.
It will not be easy for you.
A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls.
The nearer you approach to me the blinder I may strike back.
It’s irrational, but despite what the books say about man
often I am irrational.
I fight against the very thing I cry out for.
But I am told that love is stronger than strong walls
and in this lies my hope.
Please try to beat down those walls
with firm hands but with gentle hands
for a child is very sensitive.

Who am I, you may wonder?
I am someone you know very well.
For I am every man you meet
and I am every woman you meet.

You're Not alone.
Stay connected.

Are you or do you know someone who is struggling with mental health?

Use these hotlines: