In a moment that made a lot of moms stop and listen, Teen Mom OG star Tyler Baltierra recently exposed his sorrowful past during one of the show’s episodes. He revealed the severe depression he battled as a preteen and opened up about his struggle with his dad’s criminal past.
In the episode, Baltierra revealed to his dad, Butch, that he attempted suicide at the staggeringly young age of 12. The now grown-up reality star revealed that he had to walk around with rope burns around his neck for two weeks and that he constantly stayed in trouble at school. Baltierra and his wife, Catelynn Lowell, recently detailed their difficult childhoods and the adoption decision that made them famous in their book, Conquering Chaos, but he made the decision to not document his suicide in it. It’s a decision that he’s since said he regrets.
So often we hear about teen suicide or suicide attempts as a result of bullying or depression. Being a teen is hard — there are so many changes happening in our lives and bodies, and the hormonal roller coaster ride of adolescence can be dizzying.
The Suicide Awareness Voices of Education states that suicide is the third leading cause of death in the world and the second leading cause of death in people between the ages of 15 and 24. More than 800,000 people die every year as a result of suicide, and males are more than four times more likely to do so.
But as Baltierra’s headline-making confession makes abundantly clear, it’s not just teenagers who struggle emotionally. Preteens are susceptible to these troubling feelings too. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates 1 in 100,000 children in the United States aged 10 to 14 dies every year of suicide. When you think about the hundreds of thousands of kids in our country, that number can be nauseating, especially considering it doesn’t even take into account the suicide attempts.
Kids often feel isolated, lonely and confused during their preteen and teenage years. They’re only beginning the long journey to discovering their place in this world, and it’s understandable that some of them get lost along the way. It’s our job to let our kids know we’re there for them — not to pressure them to give us the innermost details of their lives, but to simply make them aware that our doors are always open.
It’s heartbreaking to think there are kids like Tyler Baltierra, who felt they had no other way to escape from their pain. Baltierra said that while his dad was in prison, his mother was working all the time, so he constantly felt alone. As parents, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of caring for a family, but it’s important to remember that amid the stresses of life that our kids may be struggling too.
Everything from problems with school to stress at home to being bullied or feeling isolated from their friends can cause adolescents to feel depressed. It’s important to keep an eye out for any changes in their normal behavior. Programs like SAVE have great resources for children with suicidal thoughts, and there’s a wealth of information online that can aid in such a difficult journey.
Your pediatrician is also a great resource. As Dr. Sanam Hafeez, director and neuropsychologist at Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services in New York City and faculty at Columbia University, recently told SheKnows, “If the pediatrician feels they need further help, they can refer them to a specialist.”
Tyler Baltierra survived his suicide attempt and has lived to inspire others with his harrowing story. These conversations need to be had so that those suffering in silence know they’re not alone. It’s important that we open up the dialogue and reach out to our kids. It might just save their lives.
If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, there is help. Contact your primary doctor, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, and remember, you are not alone.