Have you heard of the back-to-school necklace before? Do you know how to spot one and keep your child safe? Although this jewelry may appear to be nothing more than an innocent symbol of young love, it has deep meanings that can result in serious consequences if ignored.
Teen girls wear back-to-school necklaces with suicidal tendencies to ask their peers to help them end their lives by using their shoelaces to create a noose and then hanging them from their bedroom ceiling fan.
Summer break is nearing its end, so it’s time to return to school. While most students and their parents are excited about the return to school and getting away from the hot summer weather, others suffer from the back-to-school blues-a term referring to depression that occurs when kids have torn away from their friends and forced back into their rigid school schedules.
What Is A Back-to-school Necklace?
An uncommon but troubling trend is this necklace worn by people contemplating suicide. The meaning behind it is that the wearer wants to return to school one last time before ending their life.
They may believe they need to go back in order to fix things or apologize for something they regret before taking their life. Wearing a back-to-school necklace indicates that a person is at risk and may be thinking about harming themselves, which can be a way for them to get help without having to reach out personally and start a dialogue about how they feel.
For those of you unaware of what these necklaces mean, here are some signs to look for:
- The person seems distressed/sad all the time;
- Often feels isolated from others;
- Withdraws from normal social interactions;
- Frequently talks about death or suicide (especially when talking about depression);
- Makes comments about feeling trapped;
- Seeks feelings of comfort through alcohol or drugs;
- Takes risks such as self-harm or high-risk sexual behavior;
- Suddenly begins expressing intense interest in religion.
When Do Teens Start Using Them?
Though this trend might be newer for many parts of the world, suicide is a much more prevalent problem in Latin America. So prevalent, in fact, that some consider it an epidemic. Teenagers are now sending out a cry for help in the form of back-to-school necklaces.
In just one study in Brazil done with teenagers at a mental health institution, 65% said they would most likely make use of a necklace if they were suicidal because its discrete nature makes it easy to hide and leaves no visible evidence on their body should they attempt to harm themselves.
It’s also not uncommon for those who want to commit suicide but are unable to get access to any other means of killing themselves (i.e., pills) will resort to hanging as a method of doing so by putting around their necks the thing they’ll wear every day until they die–a back-to-school necklace.
It’s unfortunate that something as seemingly harmless as jewelry can have such an insidious meaning behind it. Still, given how frequently teenage suicides occur these days, we need people around us who will notice when we’re wearing them and will do what’s necessary to get us professional help.
Are They Being Used Today?
This is a subject that is open for debate as there are very few sources that say whether this tradition is still practiced or not. What we do know, however, is that even if it isn’t happening, it’s important to remember this seemingly innocuous sign and what it means, so you don’t ignore somebody when they’re reaching out for help.
Many methods exist to hang oneself, but the back-to-school necklace may be one of the deadliest because the noose tightens from both ends, so there is no way out (even if you tighten it yourself). Of course, this isn’t always true.
It only works if you stand in an awkward position for an extended period which isn’t sustainable without help. If you see someone wearing a back-to-school necklace, make sure to ask them about their intentions and get them some assistance. They might need your help.
How Should Parents Handle An Immediate Crisis Situation Involving This?
If you’re a parent and your child is wearing a necklace, a few immediate action items need to be taken. Acknowledge the necklace and have your child remove it. If it’s unclear what’s going on, contact their school and ask if they have any knowledge of back-to-school necklaces or red cords.
Find out who gave them the necklace so that you can address this situation with them, in person or over the phone. Provide counseling for your child if he or she feels threatened or scared by any current happenings.
Finally, show up at their school with them if it will make them feel more comfortable, as many schools are used to seeing this type of response from parents after recent events.
Is There Anything Else Parents Should Know About These?
Anecdotal evidence has revealed that a back-to-school necklace might signal a different kind of distress from simply just wishing for an end to summer. Some people have felt these necklaces are worn by kids who don’t want to return to school due to bad social situations, poor grades, or some other form of sadness.
As more and more kids begin wearing these necklaces, schools may need to be more aware of this situation and not just brush it off as being all in good fun. If you see someone with a back-to-school necklace, you should do your best to comfort them while being sensitive toward what they might be feeling.
How Can Parents Prevent Tragedies Before They Happen?
Parents need to create a supportive, open home environment where it’s okay for kids to say how they’re feeling. Talking about suicide with your child will not put the idea in their head. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a great resource for at-risk parents and children.
It provides immediate support from a skilled counselor, information on local mental health services, or online live chat sessions. For example, this past September, one of our friends was able to reach out via telephone when she found her daughter had posted suicidal thoughts on social media.
This September 5th marked World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD). Did you know that suicide is one of the leading causes of death globally? In 2015 alone, an estimated 1 million people died by suicide – 4 times more than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. Yet we only hear about it after tragedies have happened as if silence can erase them.
Tips For Talking With Your Teen About Suicide Prevention And Mental Health Issues
In many cases, conversations with teens can be difficult. Here are some tips on how to approach a conversation with your teen about suicide prevention and mental health issues.
- Don’t ask intrusive questions.
- Give them space and time.
- Validate their feelings.
- Discuss that this is a problem that affects everyone from all backgrounds and cultures at one point or another in their lives (but remind them that there is hope).
- Let them know it’s not just about taking someone’s life but also about helping someone who feels as if they have no other options.