Monday, February 5, 2018

# Guest Posts

My, What A Difference Thirty Years Make by Jane Mersky Leder @janemleder #teens #socialmedia #teensuicide

My, What A Difference Thirty Years Make

Imagine a world in which there are no cell phones, no social media, no World Wide Web.  Think about a culture in which prejudice and silence reign—in which discussions about gender and sexuality, physical and emotional abuse, suicide are taboo.  Remember a time when there were no role models for LGBTQ teens, when, for the most part, gays and lesbians were in the proverbial “closet.”

Well, that’s the way it was when I wrote the 1st edition of Dead Serious back in 1987 (Atheneum/Avon.)  The workings of the teenage brain had yet to be fully understood.  Myths about teen suicide (about suicide, in general) had not been refuted.  It was the general consensus that teens who talked about suicide just wanted attention: they were not to be taken seriously.  Besides, talking about suicide would make matters worse.  Better to not utter a word and hope that the person struggling with suicidal thoughts would magically work things out on his/her own.

We’ve learned so much about teen suicide since 1987.  Still, the number of young people who take their lives has reached a 40-year high.  What are some of the reasons why more and more young people choose to die?  What are the unique stresses they face?

Before talking about some of the pressures on today’s teens, it’s important to understand that there is NEVER just one reason why a person decides to take his/her life.  There are often more than a dozen.  It may surprise you that academic pressure—not breakups, not bullying—is, according to student surveys, the Number One cause of anxiety and depression among teens.  There is always the next big test, the pressure to do well all the way through school, the pressure to get into a good college.  Sure, adults faced the same stresses as teens but not to the extreme that kids today face.

Young people today spend an average of nine hours a day on social media, watching TV, and listening to music.  Those nine hours eat up a lot of time for anything else—talking with parents, spending time with teachers, doing homework.  And the effect of social media can be alarming.  A teen who is bullied online cannot escape.  Home is no longer a safe haven.  There is no place to run, no place to hide.  Sure, a teen can turn off her cell and cancel all her social media accounts.  But she won’t because the need to “know” trumps any hurt and pain.

Other factors that may impact a teen’s mental health and could, if the problems go unchecked, lead to suicide include:  loss, divorce, a move, physical and/or sexual abuse, economic stress, addiction.  Again, it is important to recognize that there is never one cause of suicide.

How to address these issues and help break the cycle of teen suicide?  Serve as a conduit to health professionals.  Take a person’s suicidal thoughts seriously.  Listen.  Show compassion.  Suggest using a suicide hotline or one of the many organizations that help support teens in trouble.  And never keep a person’s suicidal ideation a secret.  Better to break the code of silence and have an angry teen than to have no teen at all.  

About the Author

Jane Mersky Leder was born in Detroit, Michigan. The "Motor City" and original home of Motown have driven her writing from the start. A "Baby Boomer" who came of age in the Sixties, Leder is fascinated by the complexities of relationships between generations, between genders, and between our personal and public personas.

Dead Serious, a book about teen suicide, was named a YASD Best Book for Young Adults. 

The second edition of Dead Serious (with a new subtitle): Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide, will be published on January 23, 2018, and will be available as both an ebook and paperback on major online book sites, at libraries, and at select bookstores.

The Sibling Connection: How Siblings Shape Our Lives, and Thanks For The Memories: Love, Sex, and World War II are among Leder’s other books.

Leder’s feature articles have appeared in numerous publications, including American Heritage, Psychology Today, and Woman’s Day.

She currently spends her time in Evanston, Illinois, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.



About the Book:

Author: Jane Mersky Leder
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 237
Genre: YA Self-Help

Thirty plus years after publishing the first edition of Dead Serious, this second completely revised and updated edition covers new ground: bullying, social media, LGBTQ teens, suicide prevention programs, and more. Scores of teens share their stories that are often filled with hurt, disappointment, shame--yet often hope. Written for teens, adults and educators, Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide explores the current cultural and social landscape and how the pressure-filled lives of teens today can lead to anxiety, depression--suicide. Leder's own journey of discovery after her brother's suicide informs her goal of helping to prevent teen suicide by empowering teens who are suffering and teens who can serve as peer leaders and connectors to trusted adults. The skyrocketing number of teens who take their own lives makes Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide more relevant and important than ever.

"Talking about suicide does not make matters worse. What makes matters worse is not talking."


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