This is written for my friends at Tulalip, in support and love.
It is also written for everyone touched deeply by the tragic shooting.
As we read brief public statements about Jaylen, a young 14 year old, who was beloved in his community and family and by all accounts a leader and rising star, we are struggling to understand what could trigger such an episode. As an entire community struggles through this with two teens dead and several critically wounded, we are all going to need to find the words to talk about this.
Our own struggle to find words is exactly what happens inside of a child or teen who is struggling with an emotion. They often can’t find the words.
Most of us can recognize very obvious clear signs of depression. But the truth is that depression in children and teens is completely different looking than in adults. It can be extremely hard to recognize. It can also take a long time for a child or teen to give us the words for what is going on inside.
Depression is even harder to recognize in children and teens because it can come on very quickly. When depression slams a child down hard and fast on the inside, they can experience a sudden break from reality. Once they have lost touch with reality, they can hurt themselves and others. We can tell that there is a break a from reality when everyone who knows the child or teen describes the child as normally very engaged and participating and social and getting along well with others. It is the bizarreness of the episode that gives us the clue there was a sudden and sharp break from reality.
A child or teen who has not experienced depression, would not recognize that they are in a bad place inside. If they have had a break from reality, they would not be able to call out for help, because they often don’t have the words to describe the experience. We don’t know what is happening and they don’t either.
It takes extensive work with children and teens who struggle with depression to learn ways to talk about what they are experiencing. This is something teens learn, not something that would just come naturally to them. For a teen who isn’t usually struggling with depression, they might not have any way to recognize this is happening.
This is hard to talk about , but our children who are stars are just as vulnerable to depression and a break from reality as any other child. Our gifted and talented kids struggle to always be successful and sometimes when they experience pain or hurt inside, they aren’t sure they can survive it.
At this time, we can only do exactly what we are doing. Take care of the wounded. Pray. Grieve. And help each other with the trauma.