The Story Behind Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide by Jane Mersky Leder


I lost my brother to suicide.  He took his life on his thirtieth birthday.  Some people respond to such a tragedy by starting a foundation; others give presentations and workshops.  As a writer, I did what writers do.  I wrote a book that was first published in 1987 (Atheneum/Avon).  Through the telling of others’ stories, I began the journey of trying to understand an act for which there are no concrete explanations.  Survivors can only guess as to the forces that push a troubled person over the edge.  But talking to experts in the field and to parents, friends, and siblings of teens who had taken their lives gave me a sense of purpose and a way to channel the confusing reactions of denial, grief, anger, blame, and guilt.  I was my brother’s older sister and I couldn’t save him.

Three decades after the publication of the 1st edition of Dead Serious, I read an article about the surge in the number of middle school kids who take their lives.  I was horrified.  At that moment, I knew that I had to take another look at the subject.  The social and cultural landscape had changed dramatically in thirty years.  I wanted to explore how social media, inordinate academic pressure, bullying, confusion about gender/sexual identity impacted the number of teen suicides that, in 2015, reached a 40-year high!

This time around—with more distance—I was able to forgive myself for not preventing my brother’s suicide.  I understood that it was never my job or anybody else’s job to save someone.  I understood that talking about suicide does not make matters worse.  What makes matters worse is not talking.  While that may sound counterintuitive, a person struggling with suicidal thoughts wants someone to listen, to show that they care and that they “get it.”  I understood that to serve as a conduit between someone talking about suicide and a health professional is the way to help break the cycle of teen suicide.

A photo of my brother sits on my desk.  I look at it every day.  I wish he were still around and that we could have shared all the important events in our lives.  But that wasn’t to be.

About the Author

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 bookstores.

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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