Writing A Book About Suicide Is One Thing: Getting People to Read It Is Quite Another

It’s not a summer read that you gobble down in a matter of hours while you lounge in the sun, sip your drink of choice, and, if you’re under 40, work on your tan.  (Actually, I see a lot of “older” women out there with the goal of turning a golden brown.  They’ll be sorry.  Trust me.)

I digress.  Maybe it’s my attempt to make a serious subject into a lighter one.  But there’s no way.  Teen suicide is serious: dead serious.  Whether we like it or not, our kids are attempting suicide and, sadly, completing suicide at record numbers.  Suicides among girls ages 15 to 19 reached a 40-year-high in 2015.  That number doubled between 2007 and 2015.  We can never know for sure, but the best estimates show that 5,240 teens attempt suicide every day.  More than 5,000 in grades seven through twelve die every year.



When I hired NewShelves to help me promote Dead Serious: Breaking The Cycle of Teen Suicide, head honcho Amy Collins (She’s the best!) was straight up with me: Bookstores are not your best bet.  Really?  I thought such an important topic at a time when teen suicide is rocking thousands and thousands of families, friends, and communities would be a bookseller’s must have.  “No,” said Amy.  “People just aren’t comfortable going into a bookstore and buying a book about suicide.”


I was sure she was wrong; sadly, she was not.  Libraries, she said, are the home for Dead Serious.  Again, she’s proven to be right.  Now, I don’t get the difference between taking out your library card and checking out a book or standing in front of a bookstore salesperson and buying a book.  I mean, neither knows you and is probably too busy multi-tasking to pay much attention.

But in this age of everything Amazon (or Kobo, Barnes&Noble, Kobo and the like), a reader can order a book online and either have the eBook format downloaded to their Kindle or other reader or have the actual book mailed to their home.  There is complete anonymity in such transactions.  (Maybe that’s why Dead Serious has been ranked in the Top Ten on Amazon in the Books > Teens > Social Issues > Suicide category since its publication at the end of January, 2018.  Yea!)


At this point, I’m going to plug away.  I’ve decided to focus on main libraries in major cities rather than market to a zillion smaller towns around the country.  NewShelves sent me an Excel sheet a million miles long with contact information for librarians who buy books to add to their collections.  It would take me the next year to get in touch with each one.  A Herculean task I’m not about to undertake.

No, teen suicide is not a happy subject.  Reading a book on the subject can be a challenge.  But Dead Serious revolves around the stories of teens in their own words, all kinds of strategies for breaking the cycle, song lyrics, and new chapters on bullying, LGBTQ teen, successful suicide prevention programs, and more.

Authors assume their work is done once they’ve birthed a new book and put it out into the universe.  The hard truth: their work has just begun.




Good-bye Estrogen: Hello Osteoporosis

It’s no surprise: I’ve just lost all of my male followers.  But a girl has to do what a girl has to do.  And I need to get this off my chest (actually, off my L1 lumbar spine].

Okay, I was stupid.  I leaned against a bathroom door that was, much to my surprise and chagrin, not locked—not even securely closed.  And I went flying.  I landed hard on those unforgiving, uneven Mexican tiles with the wide grout lines—right on my sits’ bones.  Yes, I have booty, (“Baby has back”) but, let me tell you, the extra padding was as useless as a down coat in the middle of summer.  I not only gave those two bones a ride for their money but felt a crash of upper body meeting lower body like two tectonic plates rumbling for a fight.

Today, two weeks after the “event,” I saw a orthopedic guy.  I’d done some acupuncture and therapeutic massage but my lower back still hurt.  Only yesterday was I able to roll out of bed like I was nine months pregnant instead of a hunched back crone (Think the Witch in “Hansel and Gretel”).  A small victory.  And, yes, the day before I sat down on the floor for a test drive and managed to stay for more than a minute before bailing.

This ortho guy ordered x-rays.  And that was good. (The last x-rays I’d had taken were in 2009 for what was possibly a torn meniscus in my left knee.  I was sent to rehab and avoided surgery.)  This time around, I wasn’t so lucky: I had a compression fracture in L1 that  looked like a square piece of chocolate with a bite taken out at the top.  Okay, so what did having that 15% fracture have to do with my sacrum?

“It’s referral,” the doc said.  “You know what that is, right?”

Did he think I’d dropped out of school before eighth grade?

“Let’s order up an MRI.”

Crap!  My friend had an MRI not long ago and had to push the panic button twice before settling down to Motown blaring through her headphones.

I don’t consider myself claustrophobic, but my friends’ ordeal sent me into panic mode.  I now had big time stress and a screaming sacrum.

Any woman over, say, sixty-five (How did the folks who established Medicare know?) watches—sometimes, in horror—sometimes, with cool detachment as her estrogen takes a permanent vacation.  The mob boss has spoken.  Time for a new identity.  Changes in skin tone, breasts, stomachs (Need I go on?) and, oh, yes, brittle bones that fracture or break by just looking at them the wrong way.



My MRI assistant was a burly, 230-pound man who looked nothing like this lovely blonde.

Back to the MRI: it wasn’t as bad as I had fretted.  The machine was a new model—wider, higher and faster.  While I didn’t get to wear headphones (something about the position of my head) and had to suffer the constant slamming of jack hammers in my brain, I survived without having to push the panic button even once.

So, what did the big, bad MRI show that the x-rays did not?  Absolutely nothing.

The treatment?  Time.  At least, three months’ worth.  Are you kidding?  No dance?  No yoga?  No gardening?  No nothing?  My patience has already worn as thin as the crepe-paper skin that wrinkles like stuffed paper in a gift bag.  But this is no gift.

Several friends have suggested medical marijuana—the yummy gummy kind that looks like and tastes like, well, a gummy bear.  Unless I steal the medical marijuana get-out-of-jail card from someone who has met all the requirements, I’m out of luck there, too.

Here’s to healing.  And here’s to the draining of estrogen (Where have I heard the word draining lately?) and the reality of osteoporosis.

Bullying: A Power Play That Hurts




I moved in middle school.  Some girls started to bully me online.  They called me a ‘monster.’  All my friends turned against me.  I didn’t know what to do.  I had to make all new friends.—Haley, 17

Haley’s story is a common one.  The girl who bullied her in middle school was considered the “queen.”  She was the leader and had the power to call the shots.  Because all of Haley’s friends wanted the “queen” to like them, they were willing to throw Haley under the bus to save themselves and avoid being the bully’s next victim.

There are a lot of myths out there about bullying.  Perhaps the most popular is that online bullying far surpasses face-to-face bullying at school, on the athletic field, in the neighborhood.

Truth:  Face-to-face bullying affects more kids than bullying online.  Somewhere between 18 to 31% of students are affected by bullying in school.  Cyber bullying victimizes between 17 to 15% of students.  These estimates are even higher for some groups like LGBTQ teens and teens with disabilities.

So, what other myths are out there about bullying?

Myth:  Most kids who bully are poor students, aren’t good at sports, and/or come from dysfunctional homes.

FACT:  Many bullies are the smart kids, the popular ones, the athletes, who have power.
“They can pick out the kids that no one is going to rescue. The kids who bully are generally liked by adults. They know how to turn charm on and off. It is social suicide to go against this kind of bully for fear that, if you do, you might be the next victim.” — Dorothy Espelage, professor of psychology, University of Florida

MYTH:  Bullying causes suicide.

FACT:  We don’t know if bullying directly causes suicide-related behavior. We know that most youth who are involved in bullying do NOT think about/attempt/complete suicide.

MYTH: There is nothing kids can do to stop bullying.

FACT: Wrong. Anti-bullying programs in schools can be effective. Kids need to help create an environment in which bullying in not tolerated and know what to say or do, if they witness bullying or being bullied.

Myth:  Bullying has no long-lasting effects.

FACT: Children and teens who are bullied have a greater risk of low self-esteem, poor grades, depression, and an increased risk of suicide. They are often less engaged in school, and their grades and test scores decline. As adults, victims of childhood bullying suffer more than others from anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.



Ways to Stop/React to Bullying

• Positive psychology: We don’t always have control over what happens to us, but we can control what we think of ourselves and how we respond. Translation: If you are bullied, you can take revenge, curl up in a ball, or live by the old adage: “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” You can feel empathy for the bully and try to understand what’s going on in his life that makes him want to take out his anger/frustration/abuse on someone else. I get it: this is a lot easier than it sounds, right? But it is possible. It takes practice, a kind of reverse kindness, and, again, those supportive friends.

• Respond to hurtful situations. This is another tactic that dovetails into positive psychology. If you can do it, calmly tell the bully to stop. And if you think that’s a waste of your time and won’t work, then hold your head high and walk away.

• Kindness: When it comes down to it, the most successful anti-bullying programs focus on that old adage “Treat others how you would like to be treated.” Sure. Sure. It sounds kinda obvious. But to tell the truth, given all the reasons you and your peers want to climb up or stay at the top of the social ladder—the lure of social media and the anonymity it affords—it’s not as easy as it sounds. What does kindness really mean? Civility? Speaking up? Taking action? Putting yourself in the other guy’s shoes?”

• In their book Words Wound: Delete Cyberbullying and Make Kindness Go Viral, authors Justin Patching and Sameer Hinduja suggest a host of strategies for “deleting” cyberbullying—strategies that apply to face-to-face bullying too. It’s important, they write, to realize that cyberbullying (bullying) affects everyone, no matter who’s being targeted. The authors suggest that you may want to be a mentor and to relay to another student who’s being bullied, among other messages, that he is not alone in feeling the pain and loneliness it can cause. Check out Words Wound online or in your local library or bookstore. It’s a good read with lots of good suggestions.

Other resources you may want to check out: Steps to Respect (www.cfchildren.org/bullying-prevention); and Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (www.violencepreventionworks.org/public/olweus_scope.page).”

Excerpt From: Jane Mersky Leder. Dead Serious: Breaking The Cycle of Teen Suicide