5 Reasons Why I’m Publishing a 2nd Edition of Dead Serious, A Book First Published 30 Years Ago

Jane Leder, Author

2nd edition of Dead Serious

After 30 years, why write a 2nd edition of  Dead Serious, a book about teen suicide (Atheneum/Avon)?  Hasn’t the subject been thoroughly covered?  Aren’t the library shelves loaded with other books on the subject?  Aren’t online book sites like Amazon brimming with competing titles?

The answer is “No,” “No,” and “No.”

Reason #1:  Sure, there are many other books about teen suicide that have been written in the past three decades.  But there is always room for more.  After a dip in the number of teens taking their own lives, a 2015 National Center for Health Statistics study reported that the suicide rate among girls between the ages of 15 and 19 reached a 40-year high.  Between 2007 and 2015, the suicide rate for those girls doubled.  For young males, there was a 31 percent increase.  Those statistics alone are reasons for writing and publishing a 2nd edition.

Reason #2:  Home computers were laughably primitive when I wrote the 1st edition of Dead Serious.  Not until the mid-1980s when the first word processor was introduced did regular folks begin to see the real benefits of owning a home computer.  For most kids, it was the availability of games—albeit mere precursors of today’s games—that was the main attraction.  The World Wide Web wouldn’t be available until 1989.  The term “surfing the net” didn’t hit our lexicon until 1992.  Back in 1987, people actually communicated by making a phone call or writing a letter.  Unlike today where so much is done electronically (and, in some cases, anonymously), kids at the end of the 1980s talked face-to-face.  Their social skills were well honed.  They could “read” cues like facial expressions, body gestures, and tone of voice, whereas today’s teens are often stymied when they put down their electronic devises.

Reason #3:  There were no cell phones.  No texting.  No social media.  A site like Facebook didn’t launch until 2004.  Before then, problems like bullying were confined to school or to the neighborhood.  Home was a safe zone.  Bullying stopped at the front door.  Once inside, victims didn’t have to worry about nasty text messages, Facebook postings, Instagram photos, tweets on Twitter—the list goes on.  (Sure, teens today can shut down all social media and turn off their cell phones.  Fat chance!)

Reason #4:  Back in 1987, gay teens (and adults) were in the proverbial “closet.”  Talk about gender and sexual identity in schools—everywhere, for that matter—was too risky.  It was illegal and, in some states, a crime to marry someone of the same sex.  In 1996, President Clinton signed the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.  And nowhere on TV or in the movies could LGBTQ teens (Acronyms that have been expanding more recently) see images of themselves.  There were no role models.  They had to go it alone.

Reason #5:  As with issues of gender and sexuality, talking about sexual abuse, self-harming and suicide was taboo.  Only now, are we seeing a groundswell of women who are sharing their stories of sexual abuse.  And with a TV series like “13 Reasons Why” (a series with which I have a lot of problems,) the topic of teen suicide is, some would say, encouraging a national discussion.  But the stigma that hovers over suicide has not abated.  Many suicides are officially ruled as “accidents.”

So, why did I write a 2nd edition of Dead Serious (with a new subtitle: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide)?  Let me count the ways.

Bullying and Teen Suicide

Bullying and Teen Suicide

Social media allows so many of us to share information, communicate with “lost” friends and family members, to accelerate research on every subject under the sun.

But it also has its downsides, one of which is bullying.  According to statistics reported by ABC News, nearly 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying.

Using instant messaging, cell phone text messages and online social networks, a group of students (often girls) lambaste a fellow student with nasty, often embarrassing posts that can damage the victim’s reputation and cause deep emotional stress.  The victim cannot “find a safe place in the virtual world.”

It’s not unusual for a post to include, say, a picture from the Internet of a female’s private parts and put the victim’s name on the photo.  That is exactly what happened to a 14-year-old girl in Warrenton, Missouri.  Her parents complained to the school administration but, after repeated demeaning posts, the teen took her own life.

One might think that this is an extreme case, but, all too often, an adolescent coping with a myriad of changes, cannot absorb the hurt caused by cyber bullying.  It is not unusual either for a group of girls to bully out of jealousy of a fellow student who is popular and academically successful.

Almost every day, we read about a teen who kills herself because of bullying.  Bullied victims are 7 to 9 per cent more likely to consider suicide according to a study by Yale University.  Studies in Britain have found half of the of suicides among youth related to bullying.

In my ebook, Dead Serious, I regretfully did not include a chapter on the connection between bullying and suicide.  When I wrote the first edition of the book (Dead Serious: A Book for Teenagers About Teenage Suicide) in 1991, there was no social media to speak of.  Facebook, for example, didn’t launch until 2004.  However, the second edition of the book should have taken bullying into account.  I hope to make up some of the ground here.




Teen Suicide


Jane M. Leder Books


Yep, I know:  It’s a dicey subject that most folks don’t want to discuss.

I get it:  We’d all rather go on our merry way and not have to think about depression, drugs, conflict, teen suicide.

But most of us have been touched by a young person taking his/her own life.

My brother killed himself.

My high school boyfriend’s son hanged himself.

The brother of a woman I met last week end lost his battle with drugs.

My response to my brother’s death was to write a book.  I was (am) a writer, after all.  Expressing my feelings on paper (now on a computer) was the only way I knew to work through the guilt, emotional pain, anger, and the unanswered questions.  Oh, those unanswerable questions.  The truth is I’ll never get over the grief of losing a brother, my closest sibling.  But I can quit blaming myself for what I did or didn’t do.  And I can acknowledge that there are many things I’ll never know about why my brother stuck a hunting rifle in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

Suicide among youth between the ages of ten and twenty-four remains the third leading cause of death. And significantly more young people attempt suicide than those who die.  Often, a combination of factors such as drug and/or alcohol abuse, depression, parenting problems, an inability to resolve conflicts, lack of friends, the death of a close friend or relative contribute to teen suicide.  Often, parents and friends confess that they had no idea their son/daughter/friend was suicidal.  There were, they say, no warning signs.

Maybe we have to look more closely.  Maybe we have to hone our conflict resolution skills.  Maybe we all need to be vigilant and pay attention to warming signs that can be as seemingly insignificant as a change in someone’s eating habits, a slip in grades, a sudden lack of interest in friends or activities that used to be so important.  Family relationships are also key.  The way families solve problems impacts how we all learn to fight fair, settle disagreements, and move on.

Let’s listen and pay attention.