Today I have the wonderful Jasmine Warga on the blog to talk about teenage suicide and the importance of discussion around the topic.
I get asked pretty frequently about why I chose to write a novel about teenage suicide, and the first thing that usually comes to my mind is this: My book is much more an exploration of teenage depression than teenage suicide. Sadly, suicide and depression are often linked, as severe depression is often listed as one of the causes of suicide.
But I would like to focus on depression. I know that it seems like the biggest “taboo” so to speak surrounds suicide, but I would argue that our society has made depression equally “taboo”, which has led to a stigmatism and misunderstanding of this disease. We live in a world of daily memes and platitudes that yell at us to “Just Cheer Up” and to be “Mentally Strong” and while I think at the surface level those messages are benign, the problem lies in what they are implying—that someone who is depressed is not mentally strong, that someone who is depressed can help how they feel.
I’ve seen a lot of discussions about “good reasons” to feel depressed or to commit suicide, and the fact that so many of those discussions happen, every day, in public forums, upsets me because you don’t need a REASON to feel depressed. Depression is an irrational and maddening disease; you don’t get to choose how you feel, but you do get to choose how you respond to how you feel. Which gets to back what I think the underlying message of MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES is: While depression is a very real and serious disease, it does not have to be a terminal one.
I suppose I wrote this book, in part, to try and reframe the cultural conversation surrounding suicide and depression. When 1 in every 5 teenagers has experienced some form of suicidal ideation, we shouldn’t be burying that reality under the rug. We shouldn’t be questioning and badgering those teenagers about whether they have good reasons to feel the way that they do—instead, we should have an open discussion about those feelings, encourage treatment and therapy.
My greatest hope is that someday both depression and suicidal ideation will be de-stigmatized, that they will be treated with the same type of care and sensitivity as other illnesses. And if that happens, I believe more people who suffer from depression will feel comfortable reaching out and asking for help; hopefully some day more people will not view accepting treatment or talking with a therapist as something to be embarrassed about, but rather as a brave choice.
I’m always a bit surprised when people refer to my book as “edgy” or “controversial”. I understand why they say this, but I believe at the heart of the novel there is a call for empathy and understanding, and I very much hope that isn’t taboo.
Author: Jasmine Warga
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: 19th February 2015
Aysel and Roman are practically strangers, but they've been drawn into an unthinkable partnership. In a month's time, they plan to commit suicide - together.
Aysel knows why she wants to die: being the daughter of a murderer doesn't equal normal, well-adjusted teenager. But she can't figure out why handsome, popular Roman wants to end it all....and why he's even more determined than she is.
With the deadline getting closer, something starts to grow between Aysel and Roman - a feeling she never thought she would experience. It seems there might be something to live for, after all - but is Aysel in so deep she can't turn back?