Thursday, September 24, 2009

I'm not sure what prompted me to write this post. It's just something I thought I'd talk about. Anyway, I know the subject matter is a bit dark for a book blog, but it is an issue that's pertinent to teenagers and is featured often in novels, so I think it's an important thing to think about and talk about. If you're not comfortable don't read; if you're really uncomfortable, email me and let me know.

Recently, four students from a Geelong school killed themselves. Not together, and they weren't kids who were all friends. In four separate instances, four kids committed suicide.

I was researching this (because I research a lot. I like to know things) and I found this startling fact: Suicide now accounts for one in seven deaths among males
aged 15 to 19 years. (This is in Australia.) There are a lot more very scary figures in this article, if you want to read it (it's just numbers and what influences these, but it's still scary.)

Australia's 60 Minutes did a segment on the deaths of the students in Geelong. It was never broadcast, because Jeff Kennett (former Vic Premier and BeyondBlue chairman) blocked it in court. I can understand why the families of the deceased students would be upset if the segment was shown, but the reasoning behind the segment being blocked was that it would encourage more teenagers to commit suicide.

I believe this is ridiculous.

Now here's the thing: there's something wrong with you if you think teenagers being informed about suicide will result in them knocking themselves. In fact, I believe that teenagers being informed about suicide won't even cause a suicidal teenager to be pushed over the edge. I think a segment on 60 Minutes about teen suicide might even start conversations betweeen kids and their parents. It would be an opening for discussion, a chance to talk about it without trying to find the right moment.

Here's what I think: It sucks to be a teenager. People treat you like crap, you're often angry for no reason, you get sad and you can't ever remember a time when things seemed brighter (this isn't everyone, naturally, I'm just saying this is how it is for a lot of people). You can't see anything in the future except never doing well enough at school, or being tormented by your peers (because everyone is bullied on some level), or something else that seems insurmountable.

Largely, this is normal. A lot of kids will at some point be depressed. They need to be able to talk to their parents, and look for ways to feel better about themselves. They need people who are willing to talk to them and to help them.

But instead, it seems as if adults would rather keep the whole thing shut lest some kid see on 60 Minutes that some students have killed themselves and go, Hey! I could do that too!

Information about suicide, advice about how to kill yourself is readily available on the internet. We shouldn't shut up about the issue and think it'll go away, nor should we blame the internet or bullies or binge-drinking -- I think communication between teachers and students and parents and children and family and friends is the important thing. Listening to people when they need you to listen; reassuring them it does get better when they need to be reassured.

Anyway, this is a good article; have a look at the rest of the Reach Out website too.

So tell me, what do you think? Have you read any books lately that feature teen suicide? (Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher is an excellent book that immediately springs to mind.)
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