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 authorsâ and teachersâ 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 sonâs death.
The Austins knew their son had been struggling with depressing thoughts, but they didnât know, until soon after Nathanâs 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...