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Thread: Question about High Schools/Teen Suicide

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  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW MaryLennox's Avatar
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    Question about High Schools/Teen Suicide

    I am writing a YA manuscript where a classmate of the mc has passed away due to suicide. My question is, if the MC inquired at the guidance office what happened to the student, would they tell her? Would the guidance counselor even know the answer? What if the parents of the student did not disclose how their daughter passed? Obituaries don't always put the cause of death. Would asking the guidance counselor be the only way to find out? The thing is, I don't think it'd be announced at the school. The student in question is not popular (and therefore, most people do not notice her absence) and she does not have the kind of friends who would openly talk about it / help spread information or rumors. The mc was not friends with the classmate, but merely acquaintances. I know when I was in school a couple of decades ago, the only time the death of a student was brought to light was a student who passed away in a car accident and a page in the year book was dedicated to her. I have no idea if other students had passed away and were not spoken about, or if the car accident student just happened to be the only student who passed away my entire high school career.

  2. #2
    mysterious PiaSophia's Avatar
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    Hi there,

    I don't think a guidance counselor would tell what happened to the student if it's just an acquaintance asking. However, I do think the school would (discreetly) tell how she passed away.
    Back when I was in high school, one of the students in school passed away due to having cancer. Obviously everyone knew him or about him and I remember the whole school being filled with pictures of him.
    Then, when I got into college, a girl passed away due to suicide. Again, our whole department in uni was filled with her pictures and dedications to her, and also the reason why she passed. They said something like "she was so perfectionistic that life was too much for her" or something like that, I don't remember the exact words.
    Due to seeing these two events in my school life, I do think they would pay attention to the passing away of your MC's classmate and also address the reason, or at least imply it (I mean, they wouldn't tell exactly HOW she did it, but I do feel it would be implied that she chose not to live on herself).

    Hope it helps!

  3. #3
    figuring it all out
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    Ok, first, writing about suicide is a tough subject. Because sometimes when others read, or hear about a case of suicide, it can lead to more suicides. I recommend, if it is a subject you are interested in, look in your community to see if there is a local suicide prevention hotline. Sometimes it is called Contact Helpline, or the Suicide Hotline, or Crisis Intervention, but there are other names. They may offer training, which though scary, can be rewarding too. The US National suicide hotline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

    I remember two cases of fellow student deaths when I was in Highschool. Not suicide, they both had medical conditions. One boy had cancer, the other had something with her heart, and went into cardiac arrest suddenly. I remember in both cases, the announcement was made, and students who felt affected by it were encouraged to talk to the counselors, who had a more literal open door policy then.

    In many cases of suicide the person actually speaks first about their plans. It is a big myth that they don't, or that if they talk about it they won't act on it. In fact there are a lot of myths about Suicide, you should really research it all first. Anyways, There would be a chance that one of the people the student spoke to could have been the counselor, though a professional would have taken it very seriously when they did. And a professional counselor would NEVER tell another student about anything another client told them. If you are looking for a source of information, in how your MC could find out about the suicide, I'd go with another 3rd party, a co-friend or a rumor.

  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW cornflake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MaryLennox View Post
    I am writing a YA manuscript where a classmate of the mc has passed away due to suicide. My question is, if the MC inquired at the guidance office what happened to the student, would they tell her? Would the guidance counselor even know the answer? What if the parents of the student did not disclose how their daughter passed? Obituaries don't always put the cause of death. Would asking the guidance counselor be the only way to find out? The thing is, I don't think it'd be announced at the school. The student in question is not popular (and therefore, most people do not notice her absence) and she does not have the kind of friends who would openly talk about it / help spread information or rumors. The mc was not friends with the classmate, but merely acquaintances. I know when I was in school a couple of decades ago, the only time the death of a student was brought to light was a student who passed away in a car accident and a page in the year book was dedicated to her. I have no idea if other students had passed away and were not spoken about, or if the car accident student just happened to be the only student who passed away my entire high school career.
    I suppose in some ways this would depend on the school, but I don't know of one (public, private, parochial, large or small), in which it just... wouldn't come up, and that there wouldn't be action taken. I know a couple of kids who had classmates or people in other grades commit suicide, and it's a thing. It's a thing in every school; it'd be irresponsible to just pretend it didn't happen. Suicide is contagious.

    There's usually going to be at least someone brought in to be on site and available for any students who want to talk -- there may be an assembly or something about suicide, but no one is going to ignore it. The school will know, her friends would know, people in the community would know; it might make the news, depending on what happened, but even if it didn't, it's a kid -- if there was an accident it'd be known; if she'd been ill it'd have been known; people aren't stupid. They'll know it was drugs or suicide and in the end the cops/the ME/whatever is in the town will out it eventually.

  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW KiwiLady's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cornflake View Post
    Suicide is contagious.

    There's usually going to be at least someone brought in to be on site and available for any students who want to talk -- there may be an assembly or something about suicide, but no one is going to ignore it. The school will know, her friends would know, people in the community would know; it might make the news, depending on what happened, but even if it didn't, it's a kid -- if there was an accident it'd be known; if she'd been ill it'd have been known; people aren't stupid. They'll know it was drugs or suicide and in the end the cops/the ME/whatever is in the town will out it eventually.
    In my country, it's not openly acknowledged at school. Yes, they bring in people to help the kids cope, but the S word is never mentioned. At my daughter's school, her classmate was 11 when she took her own life. At the time I was involved with another school who had the same aged children and tried so hard to get them to make sure children knew who to talk to, where to call if they ever felt that way. I couldn't get anything to change. But, you're talking about America, and perhaps things are different there. I hope so. Kids should be able to talk about this.

    In case you can't tell, this is something I feel very strongly about. I cried for both the children who took their own lives from my children's schools even though I didn't know them. I cried when I talked to my son about the funeral and told him that every person who'd been at the funeral would have helped that boy if only he'd asked. I cried for their parents, having to find their children dead in their rooms. It makes me so sad. Sorry - a little off topic. I'll shut up now.

  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW starrystorm's Avatar
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    Back in highschool, a boy in my grade committed suicide. Although we didn't set up pictures or have an announcement, by the end of the day everyone knew. (Even me, who basically lives under a rock.) I think what made the word spread was because he had a younger and older sister who went to the school (k-12). So ask yourself Do they have any siblings who go there?

    I'm pretty sure the school would tell your MC. It would look bad on them if they lied.
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  7. #7
    mysterious PiaSophia's Avatar
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    Also: putting this in your novel should definitely not be something you casually slide in somewhere (if that even was your plan). This is a good opportunity for you to educate young readers about the topic and what to do when they feel suicidal or worry about someone feeling suicidal or depressed.

  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW KiwiLady's Avatar
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    Two of my children have been at schools where a child has committed suicide - both in the last two years. The school doesn't say that's what happened. They tell the school community a student passed away, and nothing more. At my son's school, the funeral was held at the school. My son went - he didn't know the boy but he is one of the students that can work the sound and lighting and wanted to do that for the family so no one close to the boy had to worry about it. At the funeral, the family spoke about it being suicide. The following day at school, the boys were told not to "spread rumors" about it being suicide as the cause of death had been referred to the coroner. It makes me really angry because in my country (New Zealand), we have a problem with youth suicide, but no one wants to talk about it. It was a real eye-opener for my son to understand what had happened and see how devastated the family were because of it. But in answer to your question, there is no one at school who would tell anyone the death was a suicide.

  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW MaryLennox's Avatar
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    Thank you for all your advice and life experiences. Even though the MC did not know the classmate who passes away, it is the central part of the whole book, not just something thrown in. I also don't take this subject lightly, being a suicide survivor myself and someone who has had depression and anxiety since I was about 12. Because of this, I've been wanting to write a novel on the topic for many years. I've read a bunch of YA books that deal with suicide and depression, and I always feel like they don't quite get it right. Any kind of illness can be experienced in so many different ways, and as of yet, I have not read the book that tells the story the way I lived it. I want to write this book to help spread light on a topic that I still feel many think is taboo, or difficult to talk about. For someone out there it might be the book that does get it "right" for them and helps make a difference.
    Last edited by MaryLennox; 08-26-2019 at 03:13 AM.

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