Of all the bad ideas teachers have come up with lately, making a class full of teenagers write suicide notes has to be in the top five ... at least. And yet, that's exactly what happened at Antoine-Delafont, a secondary school in France. Thirteen and 14-year-old kids were supposed to pretend they were prepared to end it all, and then explain themselves on paper.
Parents and other teachers are -- not surprisingly -- upset. And I can't blame them. We need to talk about suicide with our kids, but this is not the way.
Apparently the suicide note assignment given to the kids asked them to pretend:
You’ve just turned 18 and have decided to end your life. Your decision appears irrevocable. As a final effort, you decide to explain the reasons for your act. In setting out your self-portrait, you describe all the disgust you feel for yourself. Your text must bring up certain events in your life at the root of this feeling.
Talk about walking a dangerous path. The teen years, especially the early "just hit puberty and my hormones are going crazy" years, are already filled with angst and confusion. These kids are already focusing on the bad. We need to turn them back in the other direction.
I wouldn't suggest ignoring suicide. Allowing it to remain taboo is just as bad as sticking your fingers in your ears when sex is on the table and pretending that your little dumpling will never make the beast with two backs.
But the conversation needs to be framed in a more positive light. Show a little sympathy!
Don't make kids feel hopeless. Make them realize what they'd be missing, what losing them would do to their friends and family.
Imagine if this assignment was, instead of suicide notes, a practice in writing their own obituaries after a hypothetical suicide. Same topic, but listing the relatives who "survive" their death puts in perspective just whom a suicide will affect and drives home how much support they really have. And they'd get the chance to list all their accomplishments.
As a mother, I'd be OK with that. Seeing my kid's suicide note, on the other hand, no way.
How about you? What would you do if your child was made to write a suicide note in school?
Image via KristinNador/Flickr