Tomorrow, Saturday, the 14th day of September in 2013, marks the close of National Suicide Prevention Week here in the U.S. And despite the taboo often placed on the subject, suicide is a topic that needs to be openly, unapologetically talked about. Silence kills. Would you, for the sake of mere discomfort, add to the death toll from among your loved ones? All because suicide was an issue that you'd "rather not think about?"
It's rather hard not to think about suicide when it's how your daughter died.
Author Gayle Forman, a regular speaker at the LA Times Festival of Books, is not afraid to ask about the hardest of life and death. Her YA book, If I Stay, tells the story of Mia, one of too many of those seventeen-year-olds who lived a perfectly normal life - even a happy life - until Then. Mia's particular "Then" is the moment her family (the average four-unit group of mother, father, and sibling - in Mia's case, a younger brother) is, literally, torn apart. Readers join Mia for the rest of the book in her out-of-body experience, as Mia decides what it will mean for her family, for her best friends - hell, for strangers - and, of course, for her, if she decides to leave, or if she stays.
Where to draw the line between what lasts and what's lost? Where to draw the line between purpose and pain?
These are not easy questions for a seventeen-year-old to answer. But Gayle Forman takes on the challenge, all the while writing in the voice of a true teenager. Forman blends beautifully Mia's enchanting back story with her present hell, winding readers' emotions in the mix - which is appropriate. During an email interview with the Los Angeles Book Examiner, Forman commented that while If I Stay is not directly about suicide - though her next work will be - "Mia's decision to stay or not is very much an emotional transaction, weighing of what's worth living for." Forman shared that the story was inspired by a deep loss, and that writing the novel was for her a joyful, cathartic healing experience. Forman also shared that someone once told her that "you have two choices in the face of destruction: fall prey to it, or create something."
What kind of culture shall we create around mental health, oh readers? A culture of silence? Or a culture of support?
To learn more about Gayle Forman and find out when she'll next be visiting Los Angeles, visit her webpage at:
Buy If I Stay on Amazon:
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or having thoughts of suicide, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255), or visit one of these online resources:
http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ (for everyone)
http://www.youmatter.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ (for young adults)
Everyone's pain deserves to be heard. So let's talk.
* Please note that their has been a correction made to this article. The original post said that Forman's upcoming novel featuring suicide as a topic is Just One Year. This was not so, and it will actually be a different work. The article has been changed to reflect this.