Tim Gunn's video message directed to GLBTQ youth, in which he shares about his own teen suicide attempt, is being shared all over the Internet. It's a good one. A crazy important one. It made me cry.
I also find Tim's video and the thoughts behind Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" Project to be a critical reminder about why adults, parents, and non-parents need to reach out, however scary, and share our truths with teens, especially when we find ourselves face to face with a teen in crisis.
Tim Gunn's video message:
Let's face it. Being a regular old teenager (whatever that means) is hard enough. We struggle with feeling good enough, good looking enough, smart enough. Then add in factors like questioning sexuality, being overweight, being depressed, feeling socially awkward, or being bullied for any of these difficult struggles, and the black cloud of doom can move in.
However, I think a small ray sunshine in that cloud cover can be when an adult that you trust reaches out and says precisely what Tim Gunn and several other celebrities are sharing as part of the "It Gets Better" project -- the idea that we, too, struggled, had tough times, got teased, and felt life in high school would never end. I still can't believe what a tiny part of life high school turned out to be -- sure, it's big in a way since it's the time when you really come into your own, but it's also just four years amid a lifetime. And once you leave, you are not stuck being who people thought you were in high school. You can go out into the world and be the person you are -- whether you've kept that person hidden or not.
It's hard to talk to teenagers. Frankly, I'm afraid of them (I don't have my own yet). I always swore I wouldn't be this person, but here I am, and I don't know how to talk to teens. Partially because they usually look at me like I'm crazy, but deep down, I know that's just a defense mechanism. In any case, I'm working on it, and I think we all should.
After all, all any of us want in life is to be seen and heard. We want our existence, our pain, and our very being acknowledged. Parents and adults can "see" and "hear" our youth by saying, "I see that you're struggling" and "I want to offer you/get you some help." If you had a similar experience, you might share, but the most important part is the recognition of that teen's experience and the fact that it is real and it might very well hurt ... deeply ... but that it won't forever.
Let's all take a tip from Dan Savage and Tim Gunn and the others. Let's open our eyes. Don't wait until a teen reaches out to you (you might be waiting a long long time). Let's show them we see them, and let's keep reminding them that it gets better.
Do you share your true experiences with teenagers in an effort to help them through tough times?