A pediatrician’s healing spirit: treating depressed, anxious, and suicidal teens

I had not one, but two suicidal teen patients today. This is only one day after I had an eight-year-old suicidal patient come to see me. Three weeks ago, a 17-year-old female walked in, she had hung herself in her closet one month earlier — saved only by the timely breaking of the crossbar of her closet — passed out on the closet floor by her mother. A 16-year-old male coming in for a routine physical examination confided that earlier in the year, he had slept for over 36 hours after ingesting a bag of his friend’s mother’s Xanax in an attempt to take his life.

Ten years ago, teen depression, struck me like a bolt when it claimed the life of one of my patients: M.K. He had come into the office a few weeks before that fateful day with symptoms of depression, I made the diagnosis but somehow was unable to sell the treatment and care to his mother who uttered the words I will not soon forget.

“I had depression, and I did OK. He does not need medication or counseling, he will be just fine, thank you.” And so, on July 4th, 2008 my beloved 15-year-old patient walked out the front door of his home, stood in the middle of the front lawn, put a double-barreled hunting rifle in his mouth and pulled the trigger in front of his family and friends celebrating Independence Day.

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