I spent a year talking to teens (and teachers and experts, too) about their lives—what makes them tick, the stresses they face, their “take” on the world in which they live.

All of this talk as I revised and updated Dead Serious: Breaking The Cycle of Teen Suicide. 

Since the publication of the book in late January, I’ve done a fair amount of guest blogging, media interviews in both print and radio, and a lot of posting and tweeting.  I worked with a PR group that charged too much money for what they accomplished.  And I’m currently working with NewShelves, a marketing group that specializes in marketing to libraries and bookstores.


Oh, and PumpYourBook.com set up a virtual blog tour.


In an interview posted on She Writes, I was asked what I learned about teens during the research for Dead Serious.  The question caught me by surprise for a brief moment.  It shouldn’t have.



  • Today’s teens live in what some have dubbed “The Age of Anxiety.”  They face stressors that their parents and many young adults didn’t face: extreme academic pressure, social media, bullying from which there is no safe place to hide, pressure to grow up fast (more significantly for girls) and magically be as emotionally mature as the way they look. 1 out of 5 teens have severe problems with self-esteem, feelings of failure, alienation, loneliness, lack of confidence, and thoughts of suicide. (CDC)
  • I learned about the additional obstacles LGBTQ teens face.  On top of all the normal challenges of adolescence, gay teens may be forced to deal with physical and emotional abuse, rejection by family, increased drug and alcohol use, homelessness, unwanted outing and, yes, a suicide attempt rate 4 times that of “straight” teens.
  • I learned how teens can help other teens by listening, showing that they care about a friend’s problems.  Most importantly, teens should be encouraged to seek a trusted adult who can help connect a troubled friend to a trained professional.
  • I learned how important and effective it can be for schools to adopt proven suicide prevention programs.  The most successful work from the ground up with students paving the way.  These programs train peer mentors who are “on the job” for at least a year.
  • I learned how resilient today’s teens can be.  With the support of parents, teachers, therapists (sometimes medication) and friends, they have the inner goods to pull back from the brink and understand that things do get better.  It’s just a matter of time.











I’m not a stranger to suicide. My mother’s first cousin took her own life, but the cause of her death was listed as an “accident.”

Three days before my wedding to my ex-husband, his aunt took her own life.  Didn’t know whether or not to cancel the wedding.  We went ahead.

My brother took his life on his thirtieth birthday. He stuck a hunting rifle in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

And so began my journey to try to understand why 44,000 Americans—more than 5,000 of them teens—decide that life is not worth living. I wrote a book about teen suicide in the late 80s and now some three decades later have written Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide.



  1. We can never know for sure why someone chooses to end his life. We can make educated guesses, read the research, talk to suicide survivors. In the end, we are left with questions that will never be answered.
  2. There is never just one reason why a young person takes her life. It’s not just the breakup with a boyfriend. Or just academic problems. Or alcohol or drug abuse. Or issues faced by LGBTQ teens. Nope, experts say it’s some six to fifteen reasons why. (Not to be confused with the TV series “13 Reasons Why”).
  3. Talking about suicide does not make matters worse. What makes matters worse is not That may sound counterintuitive. But more than anything someone struggling with suicidal thoughts wants someone to listen, to show that they care.
  4. It is never your job to save someone from taking his/her life but to connect with a mental health professional who has the training and expertise to help someone who is considering suicide.
  5. It is your job to break the code of silence if a friend or child or student tells you not to share his feelings. It is always better to have someone angry with you than not to have that person around at all.
  6. Recognizing the warning signs of potential suicide is essential. This is not always easy with teens who can be moody and uncommunicative. Still, it’s important to be on the alert and to notice changes in behavior: eating, sleeping, social habits. And it’s crucial to plug into even more serious warning signs like a teen giving away his possessions, writing a will, crawling into a deep depression or severe anxiety, and an obsession with death.
  7. There are many myths out there about suicide. One of the most prevalent is that when a teen (anyone) talks about suicide they are just looking for attention. The truth is that most teens who take their own lives do talk about it. They make open threats that, sadly, are too often ignored.


Myth: Once a teen decides to take her own life, no one can stop her.

Truth: Even the most hopelessly suicidal person has mixed feelings about death. With help, even that person can be stopped and coaxed toward life.

Myth: Once a teen tries to kill herself, the pain and shame will keep her from trying again.

Truth: Of every five people who take their own lives, four have made one or more previous attempts. And of all teens who attempt suicide, one in three tries again.

  1. The importance of a loyal friend—a connection—who will be there no matter what can make a big difference between a teen deciding to choose life instead of the alternative.


“Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have

to do is call, Lord, I’ll be there, yeah, yeah,

you’ve got a friend. You’ve got a friend.”

“You’ve Got A Friend”—James Taylor









Planting Spring Bulbs in December

On December 26, to be exact, the temperature here in Chicago reached a high of 55 degrees!  It felt more like March when the snow melts (Hopefully!), the days get longer (Thank God!), and heavy parkas make way for lighter jackets.


My spring bulbs arrived late.  My fault: I ordered them from Holland and ordered them long after I should have.  I prayed that they’d arrive before the ground froze.  No such luck.  They made it here when I couldn’t move a handful of dirt, even when I gave the flower bed a good kick.  (I had a sore toe for 24 hours.)

So, I was stuck with a box of bulbs that cost me $42.  What to do?  I emailed the company and asked what the heck had taken so long and how I should proceed.  Planting them outside was not happening.  The return email detailed instructions for planting the bulbs in pots and putting the pots in a cool, dry place.  In early spring, when the freeze had broken, I was to plant the bulbs in the ground.

I bought potting soil, labeled each pot, and stuck the bulbs as deep as the bottom of the pots would allow.  Some of the “bulbs” were the size of peas; I didn’t count on them surviving the winter in the basement.  Besides, it was warmer there than in the rest of the house.  I said a little prayer to Mother Nature and hoped for the best.

The very next day (as I said, December 26), temperatures rose, the sun shone, the snow melted, the ground unfroze.

“Get out there and plant,” my friend urged.

“I just potted them.”

“Well, dig them up.”

It was late afternoon.  I had maybe 90 minutes before sunset.  I thought of all kinds of excuses why I should leave the bulbs in the pots: my back hurt, I’d ruin my manicure, all the gardening tools had been put away . . .  Besides, how would I find those pea-sized bulbs?

In the end, I grabbed a trowel from the garage, some newspaper to kneel on and then began the process of sifting through the potting soil to rescue all the bulbs.  I failed.  Those tiny bulbs got lost in the shuffle.  And short of running all the soil through some kind of strainer, I gave up and headed outside with the bulbs I could find.


Alas, by that time, I had no idea which bulbs were which—their size, their color, not even what kind.  Frustrated, I dug a bunch of holes and threw bulbs in willy nilly.  I may well end up with tall flowers in front of small, clashing colors and flowers that look awful next to one another.

I guess I’ll just have to wait until spring to find out.