Will people notice when you pass from this life to the next? Why?

What do you want to be remembered for? What do you hope stays when you leave?

If you’re a parent, how do you hope your children will answer these questions in 30 years? How might they answer them now?

I had dinner last night with Randy Thomas, my staff member who manages this blog and our other online work. He interviewed me for the book he’s writing and one of his questions was, “What legacy do you hope you leave behind?”

An hour later, we both found out about the death of Robin Williams.

Randy’s question rang loudly in my ears:

“What legacy do you hope you leave behind?”

Robin Williams death is sad. Absolutely. I especially ache for his family. I ache for families who lose loved ones whenever it happens and however it happens. But, especially when it’s suicide.

If every loss of life by suicide today – just today – appeared on your Facebook feed, there wouldn’t be much room for anything else. Suicide is way too common. Way. Too. Common. Some of these families are afraid to tell anyone how their loved ones died because of a stigma. Can you imagine the burden they feel?

These aren’t just lives lost. These are legacies altered. Influence lost.

Could I ask you to please watch your teens especially well these days? They’re aware of the publicity Robin William’s death is getting. It they’re depressed and feeling invisible, dying this way now may look very appealing.

As I just taught in a seminar today, many of our teens are depressed, stressed, fatigued, overwhelmed, and escaping.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in America for 10-24 year-olds, resulting in 4,600 lives lost each year. They’re escaping. Deaths from youth suicide are the greatest tragedy, but it’s not the only problem. More young people survive suicide attempts than actually die. They may be fragile for quite a while. Youth in grades 9–12 from public and private schools throughout the United States were surveyed: When asked about the 12 months preceding the survey, 16% reported seriously considering suicide, 13% reported creating a plan, and 8% reporting trying to take their own life. Each year, approximately 157,000 youth between the ages of 10 and 24 receive medical care for self-inflicted injuries at Emergency Departments across the U.S. [i] That’s stunning!

Please watch your teens carefully. Talk. Ask questions. Encourage them to ask you questions. Listen with full attention.

Many are isolated even though they have many “friends.” Enter their world. Don’t give up. Keep knocking on their “door.” They can’t just use the “like” factor of social media when deciding if they’re okay or popular.

Many have weak relationship skills and they think no one is interested in helping. Let’s stop complaining about their behaviors and their apparent disinterest in “old-fashioned” conversation. Let’s model for them how to care and connect. Let’s ask if they’ll let us care. Let’s teach them what they don’t know.

Many are tired because they’re gaming in the middle of the night, multitasking, and not working efficiently. They’re not thinking clearly. Let’s have this conversation and help them set boundaries.

Many are overwhelmed by all the information they have available to them. They don’t know what to do with it all. They equate it to wisdom, but it’s not. So they don’t always make wise decisions. Let’s stop complaining and help them instead.

Many want to be happy all the time and they use technology to stay in that “happy place.” They want things new, now, the easy way. Let’s help them process their emotions. They can’t always be happy and if they stuff every non-happy emotion they have, they could snap someday. Let’s be fully present. Available.

Many believe nothing ever really breaks. But, life can break and life can end. Let’s help them understand consequences.

Many want to improve the world because they’ve seen it broken on the Web. Let’s ask them what they’d love to do and let’s help them move forward. If we don’t, they might stay in the place of despair. Believing there’s “Nothing I can do” when everything seems wrong is not a safe place. Don’t dismiss them. Help them discover what they can do. Help them do something.

We must help our youth understand they can be difference makers. They can help fix what’s broken. They don’t need to be broken themselves.

“What legacy do you hope you leave behind?”

Today, you may have walked past some teens who needed to know someone knew they were alive. You may have interacted with teens who could be the next Robin Williams. Did you show respect? Were you kind? Were they encouraged by your presence?



Photo Credit: AP File