Before I start this post I want to let everyone know that I will be covering the topic of cutting and tween / teen suicide throughout this post. I don't usually write about this sort of topic, but I had an issue this week with a related topic and felt the need to share. After all, this blog is called the Surviving Stay at Home Mom and this is all just part of the survival process.
This week I received a call from my daughter's school. The call came from her school counselor. The call began with the counselor saying, "First I want to let you know that your daughter is OK." Immediately my mind started racing. I thought maybe she fell, broke an arm, broke a leg, was in the hospital or something similar. After what felt like forever she said she had to talk to me about an incident that happened at school.
There my worry turned to anger. Now I was thinking she had done something wrong. She got in a fight or disrespected somebody. But, what she proceeded to tell me caught me completely off guard. She went on to say that a few of my daughter's friends had approached her to tell her that my daughter had suicidal tendencies and had admitted to cutting herself. The strange part about this conversation is that the more she spoke, the angrier I got. Not at my daughter, but at the counselor for believing the girls.
She then continued to tell me that she called my daughter to her office and asked about it and my daughter completely denied it. Again, more anger bubbled up inside of me. Now a lot of you are probably thinking that I shouldn't be angry at her because she is trying to help my daughter. I mean after all when this sort of thing happens aren't parents the last to know? Don't parents always think this sort of thing would never happen to their children?
In my case, however, I knew she was wrong about all this and she should believe my daughter and not these girls who called themselves her "friends". She then asked if I had seen any changes in my daughter. Angry as I was, I gathered myself and told her that contrary to other people, we have no family nearby; thus, we do everything together as a family. Nobody watches my children for me. I don't have a babysitter. I don't have close family or friends I can leave my kids with and because of this we are all together, all the time. We all go grocery shopping together, to the movies, the mall, and so on. We are together 24/7 except when they are in school.
She said she understood, but that she had a boss and she had to report to her boss (the principal) and that I had to go to the school talk to the principal and pick up my daughter. When I got to the school, I spoke with the principal and discovered the issue was much bigger. I had to take my daughter home and have her see a professional counselor. The counselor would evaluate her and if she felt my daughter was not a threat to herself or others she would write a letter. Once this letter was released to the school, my daughter could return. At this point I was outraged, and the principal must have noticed because she then smiled and said that they were taking the necessary precautions to keep my daughter safe because they just cared about her well being.
Now don't get me wrong. I am not saying that when a parent gets this type of news they should just say that's not true and sweep it under the rug. Cutting and suicidal tendencies are serious and they should be taken seriously. No parent wants to believe their child is in such a bad place that this seems to be their only way out. But in my defense, and this is why I reacted the way I did: I have always been an avid reader on all these subjects and know there are particular signs and behaviors associated to this type of situation.
Most cutters cut their arms or legs. They wear long sleeves because of this. My daughter loves to wear spaghetti straps and short shorts. Cutters have feelings so overwhelming that they cut themselves as a way to release all the pressures they feel. My daughter is chatty and happy and always laughing and being silly. Sometimes I have to tell her to be quiet for a little while because she talks so much. She has an opinion about everything. Everyday she comes home and has something to tell me about her day at school. She's not quiet, reserved, a loner, etc. The only time she's alone is when she goes to bed. She is always in my room (as are all my kids). So for her to be doing this sort of thing would have to be while we are all sleeping, but my husband is the type of person who gets up 100 times a night to make sure all the kids are still breathing.
My point is she is almost under actual 24 hour surveillance at my house because of how we all interact so much. This is how I know my daughter could not be doing this. Anyhow, I called the psychologist for an appointment and managed to get a $350 appointment for the following day so that she could get her letter and return to school by Friday. As I sit to talk to to my daughter about this situation, she tells me another friend of hers was sent home after the same girls said the same thing about her.
At this point I am so upset about all this that I just say I don't want to talk about it anymore and just want to wait for her appointment. When we go to the appointment, the psychologist tells me that she doesn't understand why my daughter is there since she presents no signs of a suicidal person or a cutter. I tell her I know this but the school has decided to ignore me and my daughter and believe the girls who were showing "concern" for her well-being.
Cutting and suicidal tendencies are extremely serious things and any parent who gets this sort of call should treat it as the serious matter that it is. My anger at this point, however, is that because this was completely made up by these girls, I can consider this a form of bullying against my daughter and her other friend. A form of bullying where the school administration has been involved, my daughter (as well as her other friend) was caused to miss school and I had to pay an unexpected (non-Emergency) expense.
I understand where these things have to be taken seriously, but the proper investigations should also be conducted by the school before going to the extreme of keeping the child out of school and forcing them to a psychological evaluation. Laws and regulations are meant to protect the kids but I also know they are meant to keep the school or anyone else involved from being sued, but automatically concluding that all cases are extreme without the proper investigations can end up harming the student as well.