As a person who will be the mother of teenage girls in the not so far off future, the idea of teen suicide scares me. A lot. I think that books about teen suicide may serve a purpose in educating potential bullies, the bullied, and adults about what makes a teenager take their own life.
That's why it makes me so angry that so many of those books are so bad.
One book I read recently was called 13 Reasons Why. It's about a girl who makes a tape blaming 13 people who she felt contributed to her recent suicide. Except none of the people she were blaming actually did anything that bad. One was a girl who was her friend at the beginning of the year, then *gasp* stopped being her friend. Another with a guy who got grabby on a first date, then called her a tease and stormed off when she pushed him away. I kept waiting for one of those people to be the uncle that molested her or something, but no... there was only a guy who voted her Best Ass in the grade. Oh my God, I have a great ass, I'm going to kill myself. The book got really good reviews, although there were a few reviewers who said that they actually work with teenagers who are suicidal, and the book in no way represented them.
More recently, I read a book called Tease. This was an interesting book from the point of view of the bully. Except once again, the suicide didn't make sense. The girl who killed herself basically stole the boyfriend of another girl at her own party right in front of her, then they got revenge by making a nasty Facebook page. Then after the suicide, they got in trouble for being bullies, but really, what did the girl expect after she stole the other girl's boyfriend? I mean, we are talking about 16-year-olds. It's not like she was minding her business and everyone just targeted her.
And these books all feature the most useless guidance counselors ever. In at least two books to read, the girl outright says she's thinking about suicide, and the guidance counselor just says, "you probably shouldn't do that," then takes no further action. I hope that doesn't really happen.
It would just be nice for these books to get into the real reasons that teenagers commit suicide. Because I feel like these books are just an insult.
Adult mental health care almost as bad.ReplyDelete
I think mental illness is a big factor, but also remember that small things are BIG in teenager's brains. Social pressure is huge. And they don't necessarily think logically, or of the consequences of their actions. Low self-esteem, being unsure who you are in the world, depression and anxiety can all cause the person to externalise and blame their problems on everyone else, perhaps resulting in 13 reasons why.
Another thing I've read (I'm studying epidemiology and as a MI sufferer and suicide attempt survivor I end up reading in a bit more deeply on MI related stuff) is that apparently a lot of suicides are impulsive. An individual will feel suicidal for a short period and act upon this.
Even in adult mental health it's a joke. I was hideously depressed, psychotic and suicidal and I was told to 'go for a walk' and 'watch a movie'. Seriously. These were trained professionals and that was their advice. Thank f. for medication that put my mental illness in remission.
OMB. I'm sorry that happened to you. Very sorry. I'm glad you are here with us still and that you didn't obey the impulse, voice or what ever else said you are that worthless.Delete
Because you aren't in any way, shape or form.
"small things are BIG in teenager's brains"Delete
Oh, Anon, you are so lovely! I am well and happy and now that I know that if I get that ill again, I'll get better and that makes ALL the difference. :-)Delete
(and I have a great doc who can help me out long before it gets that bad)
You might find The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon interesting. It's a memoir by a guy who set himself on fire when he was fourteen (in 1991) and he tries to describe a bit about what was going on in his head at the time. Non-fiction tends to be a bit less insipid than fictional portrayals.ReplyDelete
The truth is, though, most of the time there really isn't any big precipitator. Suicidal depression is the death of a thousand paper cuts.
Likewise, bullying is sometimes one individual or small group doing truly horrific things and sometimes it's just that absolutely everybody seems to be doing little things that wouldn't really matter on their own, but add up. Throw in a lack of supportive adults or anyone else the kid might be willing to talk to and you end up with a bit of a mess. (I was "that weirdo" who got a lot of people doing little things to me. It made school pretty hell-ish... but obviously I didn't off myself. I figured it would probably upset whoever found the body. Heh.)
Same here. Glad you didn't kill yourself.Delete
With all due respect, use your money to buy the best education and environment you can. Get them in private schools where they learn to think. The best you can afford.ReplyDelete
Its not perfect but it helps.
From the point of view of teenage-me, adults absolutely do not care about your problems. Your ONLY relief is the next bell. I was kicked, spat on, assaulted with weapons, sexually harassed, mugged, etc. while actively trying to hide from my tormentors, and for reasons I didn't understand at the time, adults didn't handle it. (I get it now -- it's extra work and it's not comfortable to deal with these problems, so it's easier if you're some paper pusher if you can tell the kid to go pound sand if you can justify it with SOP or what-have-you)ReplyDelete
Adults are flummoxed because these inscrutable teenagers can't "resolve things like adults," but they don't have the same tools as adults, such as being able to just walk away from a sociopath, rather than being locked in a room (or campus) with them! These sociopaths enjoy hurting you because it amuses them, and if you fight back you'll be suspended. The bully will be suspended too, but they're also TRYING to get suspended since that's a vacation to them.
One of my teachers really liked the metaphor of work -- you may not like who you're working with, but the job needs to get done, that's just how it is in the adult world. But in the adult world, if you're jumped and attacked from behind by a coworker and witnessed by the manager and 20 other coworkers, your attacker might go to jail, and they certainly won't be in the same exact work area they were the previous day when they did the jumping! There's a difference between not liking to work with someone because they're slow, and not liking to work with someone because they kicked you in the groin yesterday!
Alternately, if you happen to be assaulted while a teacher AND several students directly witnesses it, they send you both to the admin office, where they don't especially care about your problem, but will make sure to put the incident into the appropriate file, and to make the perpetrator write you a 50 word apology letter, and consider the case resolved forever, and continue to keep you both in the same class.
My parents weren't especially concerned either. "Just fight back, then they won't do it anymore, I-unno? You gotta figure this stuff out on your own. You're not a baby anymore."
Teens are told that they are expected to behave like an adult, but they're still reliant on adults to resolve things, and they don't -- you're not given adult recourse if others do wrong to you, and generally nobody believes you when you say you have a problem, so nobody acts on your behalf.
I had a lot of suicidal ideations as a teenager, but never acted on them for reasons I don't remember. But by the time it got to that point, I had already been trained that there's no "help" for me, but that any signs of mental issues will be closely evaluated as a "problem" by the vice principal (who may or may not have much training in adolescent psychology!) or some other miscellaneous bureaucrat, so the "best" course of action overall was to never talk to anyone about any problems ever, and to be on guard for assault at all times. THAT could have been a problem!
The common thread in all of this seems to be that those at risk of suicide feel that nobody cares, they've been told that their problems don't matter to anyone else, and to just go figure things out themselves and stop bothering people with their nonsense, but they don't have what they need to figure things out themselves, so they consider suicide the only option.Delete
Also, adults who would otherwise commit suicide often have dependents who will immediately and indefinitely suffer if they die, so they might be willing to power through an amazing amount of horrific untreated depression, whereas teenagers generally aren't at the point where people truly depend on them for survival, so they feel that nobody will really miss them anyway.Delete
My kids are both in college now, but when they were in high school (public) there were a couple of suicides. More surprising to me was the number of girls who were into cutting themselves. (They were sometimes diagnosed with bipolar disorder....but to me it looked like the beginnings of borderline personality disorder--but I'm just a mom.) In every case, the parents were super-controlling of the girls--with parental expectations that the girl should into a top-rated university. They ignore what the teen wants because parental egos needed to have successful children. Palo Alto has a terrible teen-suicide problem--and they all do it the same way--death by train at the Charleston RR crossing. This year it got so bad that the city has a 24 hour guard at the crossing to prevent suicides.ReplyDelete
My two cents, Jen in San Jose
If teens who committed suicide only did so because they had one, specific, horrific event happen to them, there would be far fewer suicides. When you're depressed, you don't see the world rationally. Particularly if you're young. Small issues seem huge and add up. Combine depression, low self-esteem, and feelings of isolation and suicide does not seem like such a bad option.ReplyDelete
Moreover, if teens had good counselors, it is likely that they wouldn't commit suicide. A student at my former high school recently had a student commit suicide and the grief counselors were utterly useless. I was told that people who spoke to them felt worse than they did before the conversations. We like to think that everyone who works with young people is qualified and good at their jobs, but that's just not the case. The truth is, not having a counselor to talk to can absolutely contribute to the suicide, and I feel that's important to include in a novel.
The real reason that teens commit suicide is depression, plain and simple. The external events interpreted by a depressed mind don't really matter. Even if those events seem uneventful to you, they may not to someone who is depressed.
It was very interesting hear everyone's thoughts on the matter. It does seem like teenagers might commit suicide for "smaller" reasons than adults. Maybe I was too harsh in judging those books. There were definitely times when I was in high school that my life completely seemed to suck, but I never ever considered suicide. Probably part of it is that my parents made me feel really loved and were around me all the time when I was home, so there was no chance for me to feel alone with my problems. Maybe the best thing you can do as a parent is just try to be loving and supportive of your kids as much as possible.ReplyDelete
My parents were physically there, but that didn't help me regarding feeling alone. I was bullied and my parents told me that I have to suck it up and deal with it myself. The counselor told me that if I didn't tell him what was going on I would be sent to a mental hospital. The thing is, I tried. I was being emotionally abused at home and food was withheld from me, and every time I opened my mouth about my mother, he'd cut me off and say, no, I want to hear about you. So I stopped talking to him. Not only was I bullied but I was sexually harassed and I basically taught myself until college because I didn't get the notetakers I needed for my disability. There simply wasn't anyone to turn to.Delete
I believe the bottom line is a lack of (healthy) coping mechanisms and support which drives this. It is very important to teach kids how to deal with loss and adversity as it effects us all.ReplyDelete
I attempted suicide as a teenager. No one takes you seriously. You are just a "naughty misbehaving child".ReplyDelete