Hello BRAVE community. 

Today, I want to talk about something that is very serious and prevalent in our society today. Reading an article from the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., killing more than 40,000 people in 2013. It is just as likely for middle school students to die from suicide as from traffic accidents.

For the last 20 years, suicide rates have increased at an alarming rate. In fact, since 1999, the suicide rates among adolescent girls aged 10-14 have tripled. Contributing to this epidemic, is the pervasiveness of social networking. This means that entire schools can witness someone's shame, instead of a small group of girls at the back of the bus. With continued access to social media sites, these pressures don't end when a child comes home in the afternoon. Social media amplifies humiliation and creates a much higher risk for suicide, than ever before. 

Another contributing factor is that girls are going through puberty at much earlier ages. This means that girls are becoming young women at an age when they are less equipped to deal with the issues that young women face. Because of this, the rates of self-harming, including cutting, have also tripled among adolescent girls, an injury that often leads to suicidal behavior. 

In our society, we have began to normalize suicide. People are beginning to become desensitized to it, because its such a common occurrence. That needs to change. So I have 3 challenges for you and anyone in your life who can benefit from them. 

1. I challenge you to have serious conversations with your friends about their feelings. They may act as if nothing is wrong, but they could be hurting, and they just need a friend to reach out to them and make sure everything is ok. 

2. I challenge you to take action if a friend has confided in you about having suicidal thoughts. Even if they have sworn you to secrecy, and you feel like you will be betraying them, get them help. Don't assume that they will get better on their own, or that it's something that they can just get over. A life is at stake and you may need to speak to a mental health professional and get them the help that they need in order to keep them safe.

3. I challenge you to say something nice to strangers throughout the day. It can be the smallest thing, such as a "thank you" or "have a great day". You never know whose life you might have saved or whose day you just made by being kind. 

Be kind to one another,