After 7 students committed suicide, the Mesa Valley School District in Colorado briefly took 13 Reasons Why — the book on which the Netflix series by the same name is based — out of circulation . The ban lasted no more than a few hours.
Other school districts have made the book mandatory summer reading.
13 Reasons Why is a work of fiction in which a high school girl kills herself, leaving behind tapes to be played after her death. Critics of the book – myself included – view it as romanticizing suicide, without providing young readers an alternative perspective.
A Daily Assault
Our children are daily assaulted by a culture that lionizes physical appearance, popularity/fame, athletic ability, wealth, and conformity.
Most do not meet the requisite criteria, in one way or another. Those who do not may be excluded from normal activities, made the butt of jokes, taunted, intimidated, told that they are worthless, and urged to commit suicide .
Some 4400 will take their own lives . Suicide is, in fact, the third leading cause of death among young people. Over 5000 middle and high school students in the United States attempt suicide daily. Over 14% of high school students admit to having considered it.
As parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, scout leaders, and mentors of every sort, it is up to us to equip our children to deal with this barrage of insults, lies, and pain.
Reasons Not to Commit Suicide
The website Notes from the Recovering Self-Harmer provides a list of 40 reasons not to commit suicide . Among them are the fact that suicide is final, the hope that things will get better, music, smiles, laughter, chocolate, and sunrises.
More even than these, the love of family, friends, and – above all else – God should anchor us. But not all children have those to rely on. When there is abuse (emotional/physical/sexual) or neglect in the home, the image of God can be greatly distorted.
Here then are some basic guidelines.
Suicide Prevention Guidelines
A. Don’t ignore suicidal threats
“Self-assured, loved and self-directed children don’t make those kind of statements.”
-Jesse Klump Suicide Awareness & Prevention Program, choosetolivemaryland.org
Threats of suicide should be taken seriously. A parent or guardian should obtain professional help for the child voicing these.
The school guidance office is a place to start. Not all guidance counselors, however, are trained to do suicide assessments. A referral to a qualified therapist should be pursued.
Other referral sources might include the child’s teacher, social worker, pediatrician, school nurse or administrator. The hospital emergency room, urgent care, 911, and/or a suicide hotline are always available.
B. Stay alert for signs that a child may considering suicide
Not every child will express suicidal thoughts verbally. Sometimes, there are only behavioral signs. These may overlap the signs of abuse.
Have the child’s eating or sleeping habits changed? Has the child become moody, argumentative, or fearful? Has he or she given away valued possessions? Stopped doing things he or she once enjoyed?
C. Don’t keep secrets that could endanger your child’s life
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Bullying and abuse can drive a child to attempt suicide, but there are many possible causes for suicide. Whatever the cause, there is no shame in getting your child help. His or her well-being must take precedence over a promise to keep the bullying, the abuse, or the child’s thoughts of suicide a “secret”.
Children should be taught not to keep the secret either, if a friend or family member is planning to harm himself/herself or others. It is vital they tell a trusted adult about this.
D. Assure the child you will not abandon him or her
Participate in the therapeutic process. Assist your child in learning better coping skills . And reassure the child that he or she is loved.
E. Teach the children in your life that God loves them
“Give thanks to the God of heaven, for His steadfast love endures forever” (Ps. 136: 26).
Our children are precious. We may not know all the world is throwing at them. But God does. And His love for them will never fail.
 National Post (Associated Press), “Woman who urged boyfriend to commit suicide found guilty of involuntary manslaughter”, 6/16/17, http://nationalpost.com/news/world/wanton-and-reckless-conduct-woman-who-sent-texts-to-boyfriend-urging-suicide-guilty-of-manslaughter/wcm/7c27fc79-8c98-400d-b433-0a109c114fb5.
 Bullying Statistics, “Bullying and Suicide”, http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/bullying-and-suicide.html.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Morbity and Mortality Weekly Report, “QuickStats: Suicide Rates for Teens Aged 15–19 Years, by Sex — United States, 1975–2015”, 8/4/17, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6630a6.htm.
 Notes from the Recovering Self-Harmer, “40 Reasons Not to Commit Suicide”, http://notesfromtherecoveringselfharmer.tumblr.com/40reasonsnottocommitsuicide.
 Huffington Post, “How We Learn Emotional Coping Skills” by Dr. Tian Dayton, 9/19/09, Upadated 11/17/11, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-tian-dayton/how-we-learn-emotional-co_b_292232.html.
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