Re: A permanent decision
Timothy O'Leary (tjo@IMSNET.NET)
Thu, 6 Nov 1997 16:26:06 -0500
This tragedy is, as many of you have pointed out, not all that uncommon.
Depression can be a serious disease. Sometimes it can be natural to be
depressed in response to a life situation, but sometimes an exaggerated
response can be hard to see.
My thoughts aren't well organized, and I am not a psychiatrist. Hence,
the thoughts I express below should be taken as those of an educated
In my opinion, a Scout leader who is concerned about one of his scouts
should perhaps contact the parents, and perhaps talk about some of the
options. Although most schools will bring in special staff to assist
lwith counseling after a teen suicide, some school districts can't
afford it, and troops often have Scouts from more than one school. If
the parents are "clueless" there may be little you can do, unless a
Scout has built a deep trust in you over time. Then, as a Scout leader,
you may be able to guide them into getting assistance.
In my opinion, a Scout leader needs to remain a Scout leader and a
friend, and should not try to get into the counseling business. "Hit and
run" counseling is not the way to treat the kind of serious depression
that is most often associated with suicide (neither, for that matter, is
a school counselor, but these folks are often better wired to get a kid
into the next echelon of care). In any case - and I am pretty sure of
this one - don't try to be a suicide counselor with your kids - even if
you are a Board-Certified Psychiatrist with a specialty in adolescent
psychiatry. You'll ruin the Scouting relationship!
If a parent can be alerted as to what to look for, and not go into total
denial, a parent is better placed than anyone else to get psychiatric
help for a depressed Scout. This takes tremendous tact - probably the
"Since Billy Zee coommitted suicide last month, I've beeen worrying
about all our Scouts...." Don't single out one boy, if you can avoid
it. Don't do it over the phone - do it face to face.
In this specific case, though, perhaps you can put it into the hands of
the PLC. Can you link a discussion of depression with an "in-troop"
introduction to the medicine or Public Health Merit Badge? Can you
raise community, troop and parent consciousness via a troop service
In any case, this is a really, really tough question, with no pat
answers. If there is a psychiatrist on the list, please speak up. I
have an adolescent boy and an adolescent girl (plus a lot of Scouts) - I
need the education!
Tim O'Leary (M.D.), WDL, CC Etc.
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City