A 16-year-old girl in northeast London allegedly jumped off a bridge onto a highway below after being nervous that she was going to get in trouble for drinking at school. Wendy Maguire and some friends decided to take shots of vodka one morning before class, and Wendy was eventually sent to the principal's office when teachers smelled alcohol on her breath. While waiting for administrators to get off the phone with her parents, she managed to slip away onto the school bus when the secretary turned her back. A little while later, she reportedly took her own life.
While Wendy's parents maintain that this wasn't a suicide, the court ruled it one earlier this week. At the time of death, she was 50 percent over the legal drink and drive limit in England.
Operating under the (possibly incorrect) assumption that she did, in fact, commit suicide because she was worried about getting in trouble for drinking at school, this story raises an interesting point.
Teens are going to make really, really stupid mistakes. Sometimes that means having unprotected sex, sometimes that means cheating on a test, sometimes that means drinking at school, or at a party, or on the 50-yard line at midnight. Pushing the boundaries is part of their developmental DNA, and while, yes, they should know right from wrong and there should be consequences for their actions, there should also, at the same time, be a safety net.
When I was an idiotic teen, I was told over and over by my parents that if I ever needed help, I could call them, no questions asked. I'm sure most parents operate the same way -- call me if you're in trouble and we'll figure it out together.
Then, after the problem was solved (and possibly after some food and a good night's sleep), the topic of punishment would be broached.
Maybe if Wendy knew that the most important thing was her well-being and safety, she wouldn't have gone to such drastic actions to avoid the consequences. Sounds like a safety net would've been life-saving in her case.
Do you tell your teens that they can call you for help, no matter what?
Photo via kirti poddar/Flickr