The Day I Died

I never review books on this blog, but today I’m going to talk about a book I recently read that I think might interest some of you. From time to time I’ve mentioned my ongoing battle with depression and how it has affected my life, particularly my writing (or more specifically my inability to write).

As a preteen and teen, I battled depression and anxiety for years, though I didn’t have a name for what I was experiencing until I was a little older. At age sixteen, I was hosptialized for the first time for an eating disorder and that was when I was formally diagnosed with depression. There were many times during my late teenage years when I was suicidal. I engaged in self-destructive behaviors and even took a bottle of Prozac one day when things became too much.

Teenagers, I believe, have a unique relationship with depression. As teens, they are already struggling with surging hormones, finding their identity, dealing with bullies, and other day-to-day stressors that can quickly become overwhelming. For teens who are dealing with more challenging issues such as a death in the family, parents divorcing, abuse, rape, or an unplanned pregnancy, this is often too much to bear.


The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why brought the subject of suicide to the forefront of our conversations. The series follows the life (and death) of Hannah and the days, weeks, and months leading up to her decision to kill herself. Before her death, she recorded a series of tapes that describe the 13 reasons why she decided to end her life. In these tapes, she names and blames the people in her life that contributed to her decision to commit suicide.

As the parent of older teens and young adults, I watched both seasons. So did my kids. After watching the series, I could definitely understand why some parents, teachers, and mental health professionals had concerns about the series. I could also understand why teens and young adults were so riveted by the teenage drama that touched upon so many of the issues plaguing them.

I have mixed feelings about this controversial series. In many ways, I thought it was well-done in the way they brought to light some of the issues that teens struggle with. But, I do agree with many of the complaints set forth by mental health professionals. They say it glamorizes suicide, and in a way, I believe it does. The series portrays suicide as a way to get back at people who have hurt you, or as a way to send a message. Hannah’s suicide is an unfolding teenage drama that makes Hannah the star of the show and the center of everyone’s universe, at least for a time. Some teens could find this very appealing, and without fully understanding the finality of suicide, they could see suicide as a way to get the attention they never had in life, or as a way to make the people who hurt them pay for their crimes.


A couple of weeks ago, I read a book by E.B. Black that addresses the topic of teenage depression and suicide. The Day I Died follows the life of Rachel after she attempts suicide. It discusses depression and some of the incidents leading up to her suicide attempt. Without revealing too much, I believe this book discusses the aftermath of a suicide attempt in a much healthier way. Though Rachel survives (while Hannah in 13 Reasons does not), this book portrays suicide in a far less appealing way than the Netflix series. There is nothing glamorous about suicide in Black’s book.

I would definitely recommend The Day I Died as an alternative to 13 Reasons. Additionally, The Day I Died is lacking in the sexually explicit content one would find in 13 Reasons, so Black’s book could be read by a younger audience, though I would always ask parents to read the book and make that determination based on their own instincts.

The Day I Died is free on Kindle for the long term:

The book isn’t very long, so it would be easy for a preteen or teen to read in a day or so. It’s a great tool that parents could use to spark a conversation with their kids. Teens are notorious for hiding depression, and in fact, depression is often written off as “normal teenage angst.” If you’re worried about your teen, do not hesitate to call the school guidance counseler, a therapist, your child’s pediatrician, or your clergy member. I know counseling can be expensive, but there are resources available. Catholic services and Luthern services both offer free or reduced-fee counseling to any child who needs it, regardless of your religious affiliation. (It isn’t religious-based counseling, either, so don’t let that be a concern.)

You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for more information:

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