You never know when it is going to be The Last Time You Say Goodbye

Accidents, homicide, suicide. These are the three leading causes of death among teenagers in the United States. But what are the chances of someone you love being a victim of any of these? Unfortunately, Lexie Riggs is all too familiar with the third on the list.

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This book effortlessly describes the sorrow and guilt that comes along with death by suicide and brings an awareness to the reader that is so necessary for the world we live in that suppresses the issues surrounding mental health in teens.

Makayla Bech, Staff Writer

Mental health has been an overshadowed subject in society for too long. It is something that people feel uncomfortable discussing, and therefore people who struggle with depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. live under the impression that there is no hope and let alone no help, especially in teens. Teenagers feel as if they cannot bring up the issues that they are struggling with mentally to parents or anyone else for that matter. This is something that Tyler Riggs struggled with and unfortunately made the choice to end his life rather than continuing to battle his demons. Cynthia Hand’s novel, The Last Time We Say Goodbye follows the life of Lexie Riggs after her brother committed suicide and the way in which she must cope with the death of her brother.

This book is nothing but a reality to New York Times bestselling author, Cynthia Hand. She has had firsthand experience with the grief of her brother who indeed did kill himself. Although Hand does admit that Lexie’s journey with grief is not the same as hers, she did take her experience and craft it into a fictional piece of writing that illustrates the true horrors, and darkness that follows the death of someone that is loved. Cynthia Hand does not sugarcoat the pain. Her vivid details and imagery truly bring to life what it is like to love someone who could not learn to love life enough to continue living it.

By reading this sorrowful book I can admit that I have been more and more alert to the people that I love. I have learned that I need to pay attention to everything that someone says to me and be there for them even when I do not want to be. I have learned that “there’s death all around us.” Even those that we suspect the least would ever experience suicidal thoughts might do. It is our personal duty to make them feel comfortable enough to express their feelings and not withhold it in their heads until it is too much to handle. Hand made me realize that “we just don’t pay attention, until we do” and often it is too late. This reading made me aware that everyone has struggles and it is important that we do not take warning signs lightly. Tyler showed various signs that he was planning to take his own life. In fact, he did have a failed attempt, in which his family pushed aside and said that it was a “cry out for help” due to his parent’s recent divorce. Obviously, the family did begin to grow concerns for Tyler, however they dismissed the idea that he would attempt and be successful with it. With beginning therapy and joining the school’s basketball team, having a girlfriend, and basking in popularity, the chances seemed unlikely that he could still be contemplating on if life was worth living. This just goes to show that even the people that present themselves as being well and happy are struggling and are in a very dark place. It is no one’s fault that Tyler committed suicide, and there is no blame to place anywhere; however, we need to focus on the warning signs and continue to be there for people even in their happiest moments. We as a society need to create a world where suicide rates can be lower and no one has to experience the grief of a suicide.

According to the Youth Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 18.8% of high school students confessed that they have had suicidal thoughts and drawn out a plan to go through with. Within that 18.8%, 8.9% did commit suicide. We can use numbers and statistics to study suicide rates in youth but what we are failing to see is that these percentages are real people, young people with entire lives ahead of them. There are 157,031,542 students enrolled in high schools across the United States, therefore 29,521,921 students have experienced suicidal thoughts and 13,975,807 students have killed themselves. There is no other way to describe these numbers other than absurd. It is completely tragic that children feel so hopeless that they are choosing death over life.

Although these numbers are devastating, there is nothing we can do to bring those lives back, but we can learn from them and use those deaths to save lives in the present and future. I believe that one of the most important things that we can do for suicide prevention is spread knowledge and to educate the general public. We need to all be taught about the warning signs and the ways in which people can help those they believe are at risk. Spreading this information can easily help someone who is having suicidal thoughts to come forward and seek the assistance that they need. People, teenagers particularly, need to understand that there are so many programs and people whose job it is to listen and help. A few organizations that educate about suicide awareness are The Florida Suicide Prevention Organization and the National Suicide Hotline number, which is 800-273-8255; this number is available to anyone to call or message at any time. It is a sad but true fact that suicide is never going to disappear no matter what action anyone takes; however, it is factual that personally anyone can help someone and allow them to see the light at the end of a dark tunnel.