School courses that teach students about suicide and dealing with death do lead to more suicide attempts despite claims to the contrary in The Youth Suicide Prevention School-Based Guide booklet given out widely in Florida. This booklet, sponsored by SAMHSA (The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) – an agency of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services – glosses over some startling facts.
The booklet states it’s “a Myth” that courses discussing suicide in school classrooms lead to more students thinking about and attempting suicide. It then goes on to contradict itself by stating “studies found that a limited number of students who had previously attempted suicide and were exposed to a curriculum were more likely to view these programs as unsettling and may see suicide as a possible solution to overwhelming problems.”
These harmful suicide classes “focused on the stress model for suicide, a model that attempts to destigmatize suicide. The stress model for explaining suicide has recently been found to be ineffective and potentially dangerous because it “normalizes” suicidal behavior, making suicide more acceptable.”
So, back pedaling from “stress causes suicide” they now promote “mental illness causes suicide” and proceed to encourage teachers, administrators and peers to inform the school psychologist of anyone who looks like a candidate for mental health treatment, i.e. psychotropic drugs.
A battery of suggested suicide screening tests is offered. The booklet also praises a test called MAPS (Measure of Adolescent Potential for Suicide) and then states that “MAPS has also been found to be an effective way of reducing a student’s suicidality although how MAPS does this is unknown.”
Such questionable tests and classes to teach about suicide have done nothing to curb the rising USA student suicide rates.
In Canton, MI an 8 year old boy was shown a suicide film in his second grade class that depicted a depressed child trying to hang himself. Less than 24 hours later, this boy hanged himself in his bedroom.
A 14 year old high school freshman – an honor student and athlete – hung himself after watching a movie about teenage suicide.
But “suicide prevention” classes are just the tip of the iceberg of what psychiatrists and school psychologists have been doing in our schools.
Since the late 1960’s courses on death and dying or so-called death education classes have been introduced into more and more public schools. Most people especially parents have no idea that The National Education Association has authorized schools to give classes on death and dying. It sponsored the writing and publication of “Death and Dying Education” by Prof. Richard O.Ulin of the University of Massachusetts. The book, written in 1978, includes an18-week syllabus for the death educator.
Here is an example of a death education class given to Winslow High School students in Winslow, Me in 1990. During a week long seminar on death and dying students toured a funeral home (which gave them prices for burial, embalming, corpse hair styling, etc), filled out organ donation cards wrote their own obituaries and epitaphs, wrote out instructions for their own funerals and discussed mercy killing. They did role playing pretending someone had just died, calling 911, making funeral arrangements and playing the roles of grieving survivors or those trying to comfort them. The course was conducted by a Guidance Counselor who dreamed it up while in graduate school.
One of their own, death educator Nina Rebak Rosenthal, explained in an article entitled “Death Education: Help or Hurt?” (The Clearing House, Jan.1980) that high school students do get very upset by such programs.
“Death arouses emotions. Some students may get depressed; others may get angry; many will ask questions or make statements that can cause concern for the instructor. … Students may discuss the fact that they are having nightmares or that the course is making them depressed or feeling morbid. … Others may have no reactions or feel a great sense of relief that someone finally is talking about the things they often felt they could not say. Others may become frightened. In fact, Bailis and Kennedy report that secondary students increased their fear of death and dying as a result of participating in a death education program.”
She goes on to say “Since death has been such a taboo topic, open and honest communication is essential. Such communication helps to desensitize students to anxiety-arousing items.”
Sane parents would hardly want their children to experience the fear, anger, depression and nightmares created by such morbid school programs nor would they want their children “desensitized to death”.
High school students are not the only targets of these death educators. A kindergarten teacher described how her class trip to a cemetery affected the kids.
After a discussion about burials and cremation, one little girl said, “If I die I don’t know whether I want to be put under the ground or not. I want to think about that some more.” A little boy said, “When I die I’m not going to be buried; I’m going to be flamed.”
Back at the school, the children made up games in the playground sandbox. Plastic frying pans served as tombstones with kids lying down in front of their headstones. Another child walked by and one called out “Hey, this is a graveyard, you want to be dead?” A fourth tombstone was added.
Another boy made “a place for dead people” using a large playground box. Kids would enter one at a time and the boy would lower a blanket to enclose them. Later dolls were used to represent dead babies in the game.
More bizarre death education classes came to view when the TV show “20/20” did a special on it in 1990. The show stated 1 out of 10 US public schools had death and dying classes and they took their cameras into several of them.
A kindergartner class in Lancaster, PA visited a casket showroom and got to feel how nice the plush casket lining felt.
A class from Paintbranch High School near Washington D.C. got the full treatment. They visited the embalming room of a nearby funeral home where a corpse was on display. They got to see how this person had helped by donating his eyes (now covered with plastic caps). They could touch his foot to feel the difference between life and death. “Stanley is very cold” the tour guide told them. Many students were visibly upset.
They continued to the cremation room to see still warm human remains displayed by the funeral director.
“As soon as you’re born you start to die.” was offered as a cheerful comment by the guide.
Back in class sitting around a table, students were encouraged by their teacher “to enter a trance state and reflect on the loss of a close relative or friend.”
He asked them to go back in time to a significant loss – a suicide or a death of a family member. When several students begin to cry, the teacher gave advice that death cannot be undone and other suggestions. After being asked to come out of their trance one girl continued in deep grief and the teacher admitted he had no training to help her.
This same teacher took the class to visit the grave of a student whose brother had died of cancer; the student was urged to tell the class how he felt about his brother’s death.
Hugh Downs, who was the host of “20/20” called the footage “overly morbid”.
An even stranger episode was covered in the show. A junior high school student named Tara Baker had taken death education at Columbine High School in Littleton, Co. in 1985. This is the same high school where a large massacre of students occurred in April of 1999.
Tara described her experience on the video. The death education was part of her English Literature class and the teacher wove her personal ideas on death and reincarnation into the class. Tara learned, “When you die you get all the knowledge God has and then you’re recreated and you come back again in another life form and you have all the knowledge God has.”
Tara said she loved to learn and the idea of learning everything God knew was exciting to her. Death became something to look forward to.
“It was definitely very appealing – it was an escape. We talked about what we wanted to look like in our casket”. Tara learned that corpses got their hair and nails done. She began to feel she wanted freedom from her body – to be free from its bondage.
In other testimony Tara said that “the subject of death was integrated into many of the courses at her high school. She said that death was made to look glamorous, that living was hard, and that reincarnation would solve their problems. Students were told that they would always return to a much better life form. They would return to the “Oversoul” and become like God.
After one of the students at her school committed suicide, a “suicide talking day” was held and every class was to talk about death. Class assignments were for students to write their own obituaries and suicide notes. They were told to trust their own judgment in choosing whether to live or die.”
Dying would also help to help relieve the planet of overpopulation.
Tara decided to commit suicide.
She drove around the mountains looking for a suitable cliff where she could drive her car off to simulate an accident. Having selected the spot, she went to a beauty salon and got her hair, nails and make-up done. Fortunately, her parents observed her emotional state that day and saved her from carrying out her plan.
Psychiatrists have been there from the beginning of death education. It is a clever addition to psychiatric drugs and suicide prevention classes as the subject of death and dying can be slipped into a variety of school classes. In the “NEA Journal” of March 1973 a death educator wrote: “Death by its very nature involves science and medicine, social studies and sociology, psychology, history, art, literature, music, insurance, and law.”
Psychiatrists remain puzzled by the rising number of student suicides while continuing to claim authority on the subject. Psychiatrists, of course, are adept at dealing with death as they so easily cause it.
It’s time for parents to realize student suicide is caused by psychiatric drugs, suicide prevention classes and death education and demand these programs be removed from our schools.