Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide Blog Tour


Author: Jane Mersky Leder

Publisher: Independent

Pages: 237

Genre: YA Self-Help

Thirty plus years after publishing the first edition of Dead
Serious, this second completely revised and updated edition covers new
ground: bullying, social media, LGBTQ teens, suicide prevention programs, and
more. Scores of teens share their stories that are often filled with hurt,
disappointment, shame--yet often hope. Written for teens, adults and educators, Dead
Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide explores the current
cultural and social landscape and how the pressure-filled lives of teens today
can lead to anxiety, depression--suicide. Leder's own journey of discovery
after her brother's suicide informs her goal of helping to prevent teen suicide
by empowering teens who are suffering and teens who can serve as peer leaders
and connectors to trusted adults. The skyrocketing number of teens who take
their own lives makes Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide more
relevant and important than ever.

"Talking about suicide does not make matters worse. What makes matters worse is not talking."

Order Your Copy!




Like a comet

Blazing ‘cross the evening sky

Gone too soon

Like a rainbow

Fading in the twinkling of an eye

Gone too soon

Shiny and sparkly

And splendidly bright

Here one day

Gone one night

Like the loss of sunlight

On a cloudy afternoon

Gone too soon

Like a castle

Built upon a sandy beach

Gone too soon

Like a perfect flower

That is just beyond your reach

Gone too soon

Born to amuse, to inspire, to delight

Here one day

Gone one night

Like a sunset

Dying with the rising of the moon

Gone too soon

Gone too soon

“Gone Too Soon” – Michael Jackson

Kevin’s Story

Kevin’s history book was open and sitting
upright on his desk.

He couldn’t concentrate, not after last
night’s scene. He wondered

whether Brad had gone straight home or
walked the streets brooding

over Olivia and her new boyfriend. Never
mind. He and Brad

were going to have a great summer. Camp
out on weekends. Work

at the grocery down the street during the
week and make some big

bucks. Maybe take a trip to the Rockies at
the end of the summer.

Brad would forget all about Olivia.

He closed his
eyes. Thinking about his summer plans with Brad

made him even more anxious for the school
day to end.

When Kevin opened his eyes, he saw his
counselor, Ms. Davies,

standing over him.

“I need to talk
to you,” she said quietly.

What had he
done now? He picked up his books and followed

Ms. Davies into the hall.

terrible has happened to Brad,” she said. “His

mother found him in his car in the family
garage last night.”

So, that’s
where he went.

Ms. Davies took
a deep breath. “Brad is dead. He took his

own life.”

“He’s not dead.
We’re playing cards tonight.”

“There’s a
detective in Mrs. Lyons’s office waiting to talk to you.

He wants to ask you some questions.”

Kevin slammed the car into reverse and
screeched down the

driveway. He and his parents had been
arguing all morning. His

mother was worried sick that he’d “drive
off a cliff.” His dad had

ordered him not to drive to the funeral
alone. They were upset.

He didn’t care.

Why hadn’t Brad
talked about it? Kevin would have listened.

They told each other everything. Now he
wasn’t so sure. Maybe

Brad hadn’t wanted his help. Maybe he
hadn’t wanted anyone to

change his mind. Kevin swiped at the tears
running down his

cheeks. He wasn’t going to get all choked
up. Not again. Brad

hadn’t talked to him, so why should he

The funeral was supposed to be small, but
there were hundreds

of people, people Kevin had never seen
before. He hated all the

strangers. Brad would have hated them too.
He was the shy, quiet

type who loved being by himself, taking
things apart and putting

them back together. Why couldn’t he have
gotten his life right?

Kevin walked
closer to the casket. He could see Brad’s mom

surrounded by a ring of people. She looked
so tiny. Kevin had

always thought of her as much taller. He
remembered the night

Brad had come home drunk. Mrs. Brogan had
told Brad what a

fool he was. If he wanted to be a fool,
she’d said, he could be one on

his own time. But he had better not be a
fool in front of her again

or she’d knock him around the block and
back. Mrs. Brogan had

seemed very tall that night.

Kevin wanted to
talk to her. He wanted to tell her how sorry

he was and how, even though Brad never
touched a cigarette in

front of her, he chain-smoked when he
played cards with the guys.

If only he could reach out and hug her and
make everything like

it had been. But he could barely remember
the last time he had

hugged his own mother.

The knot in his
stomach tightened. Brad had had a few problems.

Who didn’t? Olivia, his first girlfriend,
had started dating

someone else. And he hadn’t been able to
decide what to do after

high school. Being a cook in Miami sounded
cool. “Asshole idea,”

his dad had said.

When people
started out to the parking lot, Kevin sat up,

adjusted his tie, and nodded at the other
three pallbearers standing

near the casket. He had never understood
funerals. His mother

had told him that they make a permanent
picture in your head that

the dead person is gone. He didn’t need a
funeral to do that.

Why had Brad taken his own life? Someone
was responsible.

Not Mrs. Brogan. She had always been there
when Brad needed

her. And sometimes when he didn’t. He
remembered the time,

years before, when she’d marched Brad back
to the grocery store

and made him admit to the checker that
he’d lied when he said the eleven pop bottles were his. What he had done was
dishonest, and Mrs. Brogan had wanted her son to accept the consequences. At
the time, Brad had hated his mom for being so principled. Later on, he realized
she’d done the right thing.

Kevin tried not
to blame Mr. Brogan, but it wasn’t easy. Brad’s

father worked, slept, and drank beer. That
was it. When Brad had

been younger, his dad had come to watch
him play football. But

when Brad had quit the team, his dad had
been angry. “You’re just

like me, only worse,” he’d said. Brad
wasn’t anything like his dad.

When his dad got angry, everyone paid.
When Brad got angry, he

got quiet and withdrawn. He was the only
one who paid.

Kevin’s best friend was dead, and there
was no reason. If he’d died

from a disease or an accident . . . But he
had taken his own life.

What could have been so bad? It made no

If only he had known Brad was so unhappy.
If only he had seen

the signs. But what signs?

Kevin remembered
the night back in seventh grade after the

roller-skating party. Brad and another
friend, Dave, had decided

to walk home instead of riding the bus.
They didn’t have far to go.

Besides, maybe they’d stop at McDonald’s
for something to eat.

As the boys approached the restaurant,
Brad challenged Dave to a

race. Brad took off across Madison Street
with Dave on his heels.

They talked
about the accident only a couple of times. Brad

told Kevin the car swerved to miss him but
hit Dave instead. There

was nothing the paramedics could do; Dave
was dead on arrival at

Good Shepherd Hospital.

Brad hadn’t
been the same after that. He had seemed to crawl

into a shell. He got headaches that made
him vomit, and his skin

turned white. He got pimples all over his
face. Kevin figured Brad

had to work it out on his own; he didn’t
know what else to do.

If only he had done something then, maybe
Brad would be alive

now. If he had made him talk about it. But
Brad had said he didn’t

want to talk, and Kevin hadn’t pushed.
Anyway, Brad couldn’t have

taken his own life because of an accident
so many years ago. He

had to have forgotten all about it.

A sharp guy
like Brad doesn’t kill himself for no good reason.

That would be crazy. Brad might have been
confused, but he wasn’t

crazy. Maybe his dad had finally gotten to
him. Mr. Brogan was a

cop who worked the shift from three in the
afternoon to eleven at

night. And on weekends, Mr. Brogan sat in
front of the TV, drinking

beer and doing crossword puzzles. If he
drank too much, and

he often did, he’d either fall asleep or
leave the house without telling

anyone where he was going.

One night, the
phone rang late, and it was someone from the

hospital telling Mrs. Brogan that her
husband had been in an accident

and that she better come right away. Brad
told Kevin one side

of his dad’s face looked like it had been
mashed in a blender. He

was cut up so badly he stayed in the
hospital for almost a week.

“That’s not
good enough,” Kevin screamed. “You couldn’t have

killed yourself because of your old man.
You could have moved out,

gotten your own place with some other
guys. You go off and kill

yourself without letting me know, without
letting me help. Okay.

So you wanted to keep it to yourself.
Fine. Keep it all to yourself. I

don’t care. Just don’t expect me to waste
my tears over you.” Tears

streamed down his face.

Maybe this was
all Olivia’s fault. She and Brad broke up every

other week. They broke up, then got back
together. Again and

again. They went steady off and on for two
and a half years.

Brad and Olivia would be going separate
ways after graduation.

So why not get it over with? Brad didn’t
care. At least that’s what

he said.

During a card
game with Kevin and some other guys, Brad had

talked about his future. “You’re lucky,”
he’d said to Kevin. “You know what you want to do. You’ve got your art. You
want to be an artist. I’ve got nothing.”

Kevin had felt uncomfortable. He’d known
Brad was having a

hard time. “You’ll get it together,” he
had said.

Brad had made one more attempt to win Olivia
back. When that

had gone south, Brad had stormed off. He’d
insisted on walking

home. “Just go. Take my car and go.”

“I can’t take
your car,” Kevin said.

“Take it.” He
shoved the keys in Kevin’s hand.

“Come on, this
is nuts.” Kevin tried to give the keys back. But

Brad had already turned around and begun
walking away.

Frustrated, Kevin got into the car, turned
the key, and then

slowly backed down the driveway. Okay, he
thought, I’ll cruise

around the block a few times and stall for
time. Brad needs to cool

off. After wasting several minutes, he
drove by Brad walking slowly

toward home.

“Hey, jump in.
You’re crazy to walk. Besides, this is your car.”

“I want to
walk. Just park the car in the driveway and leave the

keys in the mailbox.”

No use arguing.
When Brad made up his mind to do something,

he did it. No point in trying to stop him.

A month after Brad took his own life,
Kevin halfheartedly agreed

to play poker with some of the guys. He
had to get out of the house.

Kevin waited anxiously to see Brad again.
He had so much to tell

him. He was going to art school in the
fall. The high school baseball

team had taken the league championship.
Olivia and her boyfriend

had broken up.

Brad never
reappeared. But Kevin thought about him a lot.

Some days he thought he understood why
Brad had killed himself;

other days he had no idea. He could never
remember how

long it had been since Brad had died.
Sometimes it seemed like

years, sometimes only a few days.

Time was
meaningless to Brad’s mom too. She and Kevin

talked a lot. Every time he saw her, she
cried. Not right away. She

pretended she was fine at the beginning.
Then she’d ask Kevin if

he remembered a certain incident, such as
the time she’d marched

Brad to the grocery store to return the
bottle money. And then

she’d cry. At first, Kevin felt funny
talking about Brad. He thought

the less he talked, the sooner the pain
would end. But it was just

the opposite. Talking made him feel
better. Sometimes it made

him laugh. More often, it made him cry.
The letting go felt good.

But the searching for answers never

Now, the knot
in Kevin’s stomach often loosens. His younger

brother tells a dumb joke about the
chicken crossing the road and

he laughs. The wounds are starting to
heal. And sometimes things

are almost as they were. He forgets all
about Brad. The pain is

gone. Then, like a ghost, it reappears.
When he’s playing baseball

on a hot summer afternoon, or when he
opens a bedroom dresser

drawer and finds an old shirt he once
loaned to Brad. How could

he ever forget?

Reactions to Suicide

It’s been many years since I interviewed
Kevin (not his real name)

about the suicide death of his best
friend. In many ways, his reactions

to Brad’s death mirrored my own and those
of the majority

of others who have lost a friend or family
member to suicide: the

denial, the blame, the guilt, the anger,
grief, search for answers,

and the healing that never goes in a
straight line.

Take a look at
the following quotes and decide which reactions

to suicide they each represent.

one: “He’s
not dead. We’re playing cards tonight.”


“ There must have been a reason Brad
killed himself.

Someone was responsible.”


“ If only he had done something then,
maybe Brad would be

alive now. If he had made him talk about
it. But Brad had said

he didn’t want to talk, and Kevin hadn’t


“ You go off and kill yourself without
letting me know, without

letting me help. Okay. So you wanted to
keep it to yourself.

Fine. Keep it all to yourself. I don’t
care. Just don’t expect me

to waste my tears over you. tears streamed
down his face.”


“ He wasn’t going to get all choked up.
Not again. Brad hadn’t

talked to him, so why should he care?”


“But the searching for answers never


“ The wounds are starting to heal. And sometimes
things are

almost as they were. He forgets all about
Brad. The pain is

gone. then, like a ghost, it reappears.”

one: Denial

When Kevin was first told that Brad had
taken his life, he refused

to believe it. The truth was too hard to
bear. How could his friend

do something like that? It didn’t make
sense. And it was easier to deny

that his best friend wouldn’t be at the
card game that night, or any other night, than to accept that his friend was

Denial is a
short-term defense mechanism against death—

death by suicide or by any other means. “I
can’t believe that this

has happened, that he won’t be around

two: Blame

Kevin did his best to find someone to
blame for Brad’s death:

Maybe it was Mr. Brogan, Brad’s father. He
hadn’t been the most

supportive of dads. Or maybe it was the
friend who was hit by a car

in front of Brad and later died. Then
there was Olivia, who broke

up with Brad and broke his heart. Or maybe
it was Brad himself;

he didn’t have a clue what he wanted to do
after graduation.

Truth is there is never one reason why
someone takes his/her

own life. And never just one person to

three: Guilt

Friends of those who have taken their own
lives, such as Kevin, feel

they could have prevented the suicide if
only they had known how

unhappy their friend was. In some cases,
they did know their friend

was suicidal but didn’t tell anyone,
probably because they were

sworn to secrecy. Secrecy is never an
option. If you sense or know

that a friend is severely depressed, find
a trusted adult who can

help your friend get the professional help
needed. Better to break

a friend’s confidence than to lose him

four: anger

Anger is part of the grieving process. We
usually get angry when

feeling hopeless, helpless. You get angry
at the friend who took his

life. Angry at the fact that he didn’t
bother to talk to you about his

problems, that he didn’t even say
good-bye. Angry at yourself for

not seeing the writing on the wall. While
anger is a natural reaction

to suicide (to any painful loss), it eases
over time. Most often,

the anger morphs into sadness and

five: Grief

Everyone reacts differently to suicide.
Some people scream and

cry. Others, like Kevin, try not to get
emotional but waver back

and forth. But sooner or later, they’re
forced to accept the truth: a

friend is dead, and the death was not a

There are no
right or wrong ways to grieve. You can take all the

time you need, even when people say things
like, “Well, you’ve got

your life back on track, right?” or
something more direct: “It’s time

to stop feeling sorry for yourself.” Life
is not a TV show in which

characters “get over it” in thirty minutes
to an hour. It takes time to

grieve. For many, the pain never goes
away; it becomes a dull ache.

six: Search for Answers

For Kevin and everyone who has lost
someone to suicide, the

search for answers can be confounding. If
someone dies in an auto

accident, there is a cause, a reason. If
someone dies from a disease

like cancer, there is a reason. If someone
dies of old age, the death

is understandable. But suicide? There are
only guesses as to why.

Some survivors,
like me, find comfort in talking to everyone

who knew the person who took his life in
an attempt to find clues

or, in some cases, to find support. The
act of doing something can

be helpful. I wrote a book. Now I’m
writing a second one. I’ve

learned a lot about my brother and about
the way other people

remembered him. But after all these years,
I still have many questions

that will never be answered.

But I’m still
certain that my brother visited me after he died. I

know I wasn’t crazy when, a few days after
my brother’s funeral, he

appeared in my bedroom in the middle of
the night. I sat up and

turned on the light, and there he
was—dressed not in some white,

angel-like getup but in a pair of faded
jeans and a work shirt. I was

terrified and had no idea what to do or
say. For three nights, my

brother showed up after dark. On the third
night, I managed to

tell him how much I loved and missed him
but that I understood

he’d made a decision to move on to
whatever was next. He nodded,

turned, and walked through my closet.

I’ve retold
this story many times. And more often than not,

people look at me like I’m crazy. They
think I’ve gone off the deep

end with grief. But I know what I saw was
real. I know that my

brother needed my permission to leave this
earth plane and that,

as his older, beloved sister, he’d come to
me to cut the cord.

seven: Healing Never Goes in a Straight

There are days—even weeks or more—when the
grieving stops.

Your life goes on. Then you hear a song or
see an old friend or

attend a family event, and the pain
returns. Usually, the grief

doesn’t last as long as it used to. The
truth is: it never goes away

forever but leaves a dull ache that comes
and goes.



If you know someone who has died by
suicide and feel that you

need help or information, contact any of
the following people or

organizations near you:

• Local support group – You can use
support group directories

from, among others, the American
Foundation for Suicide


group) and


• School counselor or teacher whom you

• Private counselors – Ask your school
counselor or doctor for


Jane Mersky Leder was born in Detroit, Michigan. The "Motor City"
and original home of Motown have driven her writing from the start. A
"Baby Boomer" who came of age in the Sixties, Leder is fascinated by
the complexities of relationships between generations, between genders, and
between our personal and public personas.

Dead Serious, a book about teen suicide, was
named a YASD Best Book for Young Adults. 

The second edition of
Dead Serious
(with a new subtitle): Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide,
will be published on January 23, 2018, and will be available as both an ebook
and paperback on major online book sites, at libraries, and at select

The Sibling Connection:
How Siblings Shape Our Lives,
and Thanks For The Memories: Love, Sex, and
World War II
are among Leder’s other books.

Leder’s feature articles
have appeared in numerous publications, including American Heritage,
Psychology Today,
and Woman’s Day.

She currently spends her
time in Evanston, Illinois, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.



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