Many of you know our family’s story by now. Our daughter Maddie tragically took her own life at the tender age of fourteen and forever changed the lives of our family and friends. Sadly, this is not a unique story. Maddie’s Mom, our boys and friends have made it a personal mission to tell our story, bring greater awareness to youth mental illness and help create better access for those families currently affected by this troubling disease. With all this attention to mental illness, promoted mainly through social media, are we fuelling the fire and putting the idea of suicide in our youths’ heads?
The Popularizing of Suicide
When I was growing up, suicide was rarely discussed, primarily because suicide was seldom publicized. I personally never knew anyone who died by suicide or even attempted it, for that matter. We have all dealt with heartache and disappointment growing up, but I never looked at ending my life because of being dumped or a bad test result. By publicly discussing mental illness and suicide, we may reduce the stigma, but are we also potentially glamorizing suicide as an option for our youths’ despair. I know this isn’t the intent of these campaigns and all the positive steps being taken to help extinguish this epidemic. But are there many youth today that can claim that they’ve never been affected by someone’s suicide or attempted suicide?
How Do We Manage Social Media?
Social media isn’t going anywhere. There are so many new social media outlets launched every month. I look at some of these youths with a thousand, five thousand or ten thousand followers. A single post can impact the lives of tens of thousands of people. That is powerful and yet hauntingly dangerous. How many of these kids know or even understand the followers’ intent of these thousands of followers?
Love-Hate Relationship with Social Media
Social media opens us up to scrutiny, vulnerability and personal attacks. Personal anecdotes are subject to criticism and abuse. Many Facebook friends have supported me through our ordeal with Maddie, and my business is promoted by the blogs I post on LinkedIn and Medium. I’m incredibly grateful and humbled by the number of reads and shares I get after a post. My blog is read and shared by thousands of readers around the world. The power of social media is incredible, and its reach is mind-boggling.
Life is Nothing Like a Social Media Post
With all the good also comes social media’s detractors. Some people read my posts about Madeline and think I’m living on the edge of despair and in jeopardy of taking my life. People will always interpret what they want to analyze, but for me, it’s therapy. Although I’m not always in the mood for writing, it does help me and puts things into perspective. I receive many messages from people telling me that my blogs have helped answer questions they may have, seek help or comfort. Somehow they feel they’re less alone in their suffering. Personally, the benefit of social media far outweighs the public scrutiny that it may bring me.
Social Media and Youth
It’s social media and the youth that concerns me. A case in point, a close family friend and I talk regularly. I’m honoured that he feels comfortable confiding in me. He’s the very reason why I think social media is dangerous. In a game that’s measured by likes and followers, we allow people into our forums that we shouldn’t and invite others’ ulterior motives and public scrutiny. This wonderful kid has been told by his “friends” to go kill himself, and several other “friends” liked this comment. The cruelty amongst some kids today is unconscionable. Do they even know what they’re putting into print? In a world that celebrates diversity, how can this be tolerated? The sad part is that my young friend isn’t the only victim, and cyberbullying has caused so many youths to take their own lives.
Cyberbullying Must Be Stopped
Amanda Todd was one such victim of cyberbullying. The weight of this burden eventually caused her so much grief and anguish that she took her own life. A young, beautiful life extinguished far too early. Amanda’s Mom, Carol Todd, has made it her life purpose to bring awareness to cyberbullying through The Amanda Todd Legacy Society. Carol is doing fantastic work. She speaks at events around the world and influences public policy. She is making politicians, educators, parents and youth think twice about what they post and that these actions have consequences. We need to protect and preserve our youths’ innocence in real life and online. As much as Carol’s work is gaining momentum, we need more champions like Carol and fewer victims like Amanda.
Parenting and Social Media 2.0
Let’s have these authentic conversations with our kids. Let’s make it our business to be in our kids’ online and real lives. Let’s make our kids feel supported even though there are times when they feel very alone and vulnerable. Let’s not be naive that this only happens to other people’s kids.
Please share and help support The Maddie Project by bringing greater awareness and access for youths and their families affected by depression and other mental illnesses.
Please share and help support The Amanda Todd Legacy Society, which focuses on awareness and the well-being of individuals concerning prevention and understanding relating to bullying, cyber abuse and internet safety, and resources and education that encourage mental wellness and healthy living.
Through the bankruptcy of his first business, a strong balance sheet means nothing unless you can get the money out of your business and into your hands personally, tax efficiently, and creditor protected. Chris helps and coaches business owners to avoid a similar fate as he suffered in his first business.
Through several clever strategies, he illustrates how these little-known vehicles can get money out of your business efficiently, build your corporate brand and create a legacy through charitable means to help make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.
Also, he has seen the impact that mental health can have upon success within your business and your life and how the two are on a constant collision course. When Chris became aware that Entrepreneurs struggled with their mental health at more than twice the rate of average adults, he realized he wasn’t alone and made it his ambition to understand why and do something to help. His business, The Finish Line Group, aims to help support the entrepreneur’s financial, philanthropic, and emotional needs.
Chris’ Why Statement remains, “To openly communicate the lessons learned from my past so that others will thrive in their lives, minimize their setbacks and leave a positive and lasting legacy.”