When actor Max Adler grabbed his belt in his hands, I knew Glee was going there. They were going to take teen suicide and put it in prime time. My stomach clenched and my heart sank. It was a risk. But it's about time someone took it.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America. But in teenagers and young adults, it skyrockets to the third leading cause of death. Third. Among our nation's next great hope.
And as long as we keep hiding it, it's going to keep happening.
As it stands now, suicide remains one of the taboo subjects with teens. I've even had doctors, whose job it is to ask these kinds of questions, couch the "well, have you ever had suicidal thoughts" query with a disclaimer like "well, I have to ask this." But it's a discussion that's especially absent in the parent-child and school-student relationships.
Glee's writers weren't afraid to address that last night either. After Dave Karofsky attempted to hang himself to escape the pain of having his homosexuality mercilessly mocked in the locker room and online, members of the the staff at the fictitious McKinley High School gathered in the principal's office to discuss how they'd present it to their students. And Principal Figgins' first concern was the risk of "copycats" among the student body if they were to bring it up.
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I get it. No one wants to be the one who put such a tragic thought into a kid's mind. And there is some evidence from real scientific sources that there is a risk that suicide can be "contagious." And yet, if you look at the science, it isn't the acknowledgement that suicide happens that is the problem. It's the risk of "glorifying" the act.
This is where Glee gives us a road map. They unveiled the horrors with none of the adulation for the act.
Now, parents, it's your turn. It's time to stop being too afraid to face one of the worst things that could enter a parent's mind -- the possible death of their child -- and put your kids' needs first. They need to hear, from the people who will always love them unconditionally, that they do matter, that things do get better, and that there will always be a way out of pain and darkness. If you think they already know these things, fine. Say it again. What's the worst that can happen? That your kid feels "too" loved? Really?
Then at least they'll know they aren't alone, that they are being heard. That's what suicide is. It's the desperate act of someone who feels they have no voice. And as long as we pretend that kids don't commit suicide, we are feeding that problem, we are silencing kids' calls to be heard.
Suicide is a cry for help that cannot be answered. It is too late for the person we have lost. But it is not too late for the other kids who can be saved if we would just open our mouths and start talking about it.
Glee got the conversation started. Let's keep it going.
How have you opened up the talk about suicide with your kids?
Image via Fox