Teenagers and the literature of hopelessness and suicide
Does dark or graphic material in literature harm teens? Never? Always? Sometimes? Among authors, librarians, and teachers, asking that question often starts an ideological battle, with some focused on protecting against censorship and others focused on authors‚Äô and teachers‚Äô worldviews.
But is that debate the whole story? When Texas high-school senior Nathan Austin committed suicide on April 2, 2012, his parents, Paul and Karen, examined new research on the biology of depression and suicide prevention, and saw that reading about death and suicide may have contributed to the mentality that led to their son‚Äôs death.
The Austins knew their son had been struggling with depressing thoughts, but they didn‚Äôt know, until soon after Nathan‚Äôs death, that his Advanced Placement (AP) English course, intended to help high-school students earn college credit, included many books that dealt with death and...