(PRWEB) December 13, 2012
"Lasting mental health requires taking energy that would be spent on suicidal thoughts and channeling it into causes for hope in our lives. That's especially true in the classroom," says faith-based website, followme.org.
That statement came today as news reports surfaced of a secondary teacher in France who was suspended from teaching after local parents protested a controversial essay prompt: "Tell me why you want to commit suicide," according to a London Telegraph report from Tuesday.
An unnamed teacher in southwestern France allegedly assigned his class of 13 and 14-year-olds the controversial essay at the end of October, Time Magazine reported on Tuesday. However, parents are only recently receiving word, as students receive their final grade reports in December, Time states.
Why is the teacher accused of encouraging suicidal thoughts in his students? According to the Telegraph, the teacher assigned the following essay prompt to his class of secondary students at the college Antoine-Delafont:
"You've just turned 18 and have decided to end your life. Your decision appears irrevocable. As a final effort, you decide to explain the reasons for your act.
"In setting out your self-portrait, you describe all the disgust you feel for yourself. Your text must bring up certain events in your life at the root of this feeling."
Soon after being notified of the assignment, a group of disgruntled parents wrote an anonymous letter to the teacher's supervisor and the local school authority, the Telegraph report says. The parents declared their shock in the local school district: "We are horrified that this type of topic should be proposed to children between 13 and 14 years old."
Yet students in the college Antoine-Delafont have no doubt been exposed to suicide before. In recent months, two area students have committed suicide, the Telegraph reports.
"What shocks me is linking autobiography with suicide; it's really over the top," one parent told the local newspaper, Le Charente Libre.
And some organizations involved in promoting suicide prevention seem to agree with that parent's claim. Followme.org is a faith-based website that provides "mental health resources for people of all walks of life," and its leaders say there are better ways to curb the suicide epidemic than the French teacher's strategy.
"You cannot discourage someone from thinking, 'I want to die!' by encouraging them to write an essay coming up with reasons why they should want to die. Suicide prevention in the classroom, rather, could start with answering questions like 'What is suicide?' and then moving onto ones like 'How would you help a friend who was struggling with suicidal thoughts?'," says Pastor Jamie of followme.org.
"Battling suicidal thoughts in young people requires pointing them towards sources of hope and joy in their lives, not encouraging them to dwell on sources of despair," he said.
Regardless, however, French educators continue battling a suicide epidemic in that country. Suicide is the second most prevalent cause of death among French people under the age of 25, with about 50,000 12- to 20-year-olds attempting suicide each year, Time says.