I just finished this book - like the narrator, Clay, in the book, I read/listened to Hannah's story within almost 24 hours. I started the book last night at around 10:30 and finished tonight at 11:00. (Although I couldn't read during class.I did have to teach classes after all.)
I'm left with a dizzying, sad, full throat kind of feeling. You have to read the book to understand this. It's definitely not for the faint hearted. The viciousness of people who pretend to be friends, but abandon you when you most need them. I remember those feelings of despair and self-loathing that Hannah felt. Like Hannah, I blamed myself for things that happened that I had no control over. When I was nineteen years old, three important people in my life died, and I almost died, too.
I can also identify with Clay because I'm more like him than any other character, including Hannah. I lost a very special person due to suicide. Years ago. Way before I became a teacher.
Luckily, I had a lot of positive connections in my life when I most needed it. People who reached out to me without knowing that's actually what they were doing. People, like the character Clay, who gave me hope. That tomorrow was another day, and I would survive it.
I love this book because teen suicide is not talked about in schools. Bullying is. Gossip is. Sex is. Sexually Transmitted Diseases are. Yet, something as basic and as important as LIFE is not talked about.
So, what do I do with this? Do I go back to my classroom and recommend that kids read this book? Some might not be able to handle this without some guidance. My students are in middle school, not high school. However, I've known several middle school kids personally who have had to survive the suicide of someone they love, usually a parent.
So, I'm writing this blog post. If suicide is something that someone you know is thinking about - Help them - tell a trusted adult, stay with your friend until he or she gets help. Call 1-800-SUICIDE and tell them that you or your friend is contemplating suicide. Go online at http://www.hopeline.com/. Here are common signs that I got from the World of Psychology website:
If someone says two or more of the following:
Life isn't worth living, my family would be better off without me, next time I'll take enough pills to do the job right, I don't need this stuff anymore, don't worry, I won't be around much longer, you'll be sorry when I'm gone, I can't deal with it anymore, I won't be a burden much longer, nobody understands me or feels the way I do, I'd be better off dead, I feel like there's no way out, you'd be better off without me.
Sometimes, it's not what the person says, but what they do. They cut themselves off from you, push you away emotionally, spend hours alone in their room, skip classes to spend hours alone in their room or their car, do reckless or dangerous things that they never would have done before, become lethargic and want to sleep all the time, not excited about anything anymore, not care about personal appearance of hygiene, talk as if they are detached from everything as if they are a third party looking at themselves or at you without any real emotion. (I just wrote this from my own experiences with suicide. I just looked on the website and sure enough all of the symptoms are eerily similar.)
Read this book. You will never be the same again. If you feel like Hannah, please, please, please tell someone who can help you before it's too late. Believe it or not, almost everyone I know has felt suicidal at one time or another in their life. You are not alone. You are never alone.