Teen suicide is a very real problem, one that should not be ignored. But watching the media glamorize teen suicide is NOT helping things. At all.
Teen suicide is on the rise. Nearly 56% since 2007 to 2017, and apparently nobody knows why.
I think that’s sort of a cop out. Everybody knows why. Enhanced pressure on teens to do better coupled with the constant contact of social media has done nothing to help teens and pre-teens get through their adolescent years.
But, in addition to that, television like Thirteen Reasons Why, Virgin Suicides, and most recently, Looking for Alaska, glorify the people who commit suicide.
In all fairness to each of these, they began as books. But that doesn’t make their stories any better.
Thirteen Reasons Why is a Netflix series about teens in the aftermath of a suicide committed by a girl who then spends an entire season posthumously tormenting her peers via a series of tapes.
Looking for Alaska is a series on Hulu that goes so far as to have the students of the school pool off a “memorial prank” in honor of a girl who may or may not (but probably) committed suicide.
And Virgin Suicides isn’t any better.
The common factor here isn’t just the glorification of suicide, but the impact it has on the friends and family left behind. It’s about the impact, both good and bad, on the people left behind.
Their grieving process, the way they pine after those who killed themselves. THIS is the issue here.
I am not so naive as to think that these stories don’t hold merit for those people who have experiences suicide of a loved one. I understand that.
But, kids are killing themselves because of the way we make their suicides seem like they give other hope. The way their deaths seem to impact the rest of the world for years and years to come.
To make these deaths seem significant, to show a teen who is feeling anything but significant how the act of doing something like killing themselves, is the one of the reasons these teenagers and pre-teens are DOING this.
Thirteen Reasons Why was actually directly linked to an increase in teen suicides, and I won’t be surprised if we don’t see something similar with the recent release of Looking for Alaska.
For some reason, the girls who commit suicide in all of these are remembered as fresh faced, gorgeous beauties that the world will be lost without. We are teaching our girls that if they want to live forever, the best way is to die young.
Can we, as a collective, not figure out a way to talk about teen suicide and the impact it has on others without making it seem so glitzy and glam?
There simply has to be a better way.