A Writing Program for Suicidal Adolescents

person wearing black coat
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

I founded and conducted a writing program for suicidal adolescents at a psych hospital for ten years (www.360westproject.com). Below is one of my many encounters.

Mason is gothic. He has long stringy black hair. He wears black clothing and a trench coat. He has acne, which is intensified because he doesn’t shower very well. At times he mutters to himself. He paces. He walks to the large plate glass window in my classroom and pushes his face to it, leaving behind greasy marks for the housekeepers.

He’s here because he has hallucinations coupled with bi-polar episodes, which is a schizoaffective disorder that is hard to treat. He says he likes his hallucinations and doesn’t want them to subside. He says people should be able to choose their mental states as long as they don’t harm themselves or society. He has a point, I guess.

But America—the sweet mother of freedom—has little patience for people like Mason. We dislike gothic tendencies. Gothic people seem weird to us, so the doctor started him on Geodon. The plan is to knockout the hallucinations while treating his mood disorder as well. Will it work? I’m not sure. But since the doctor’s intervention he’s pacing a lot. His hygiene is getting worse. His hair is getting greasier by the minute. His face more infected, his mumbling more acute. He’s worried that the new medicine will take away his hallucinations. He doesn’t want this.

A day later, he crashes from the manic state he was in when he arrived here. He was funny then. He talked more. Jack Kerouac would’ve liked him then. Mason never yawned or said a commonplace thing. He burned, burned, burned, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars. Mason was “desirous of everything at the same time.” He talked insistently. Would not shut up. Could not stop talking. Now he mutters to himself. Gone is that desirous pressured speech. Is it a bad thing? I’m not sure.

When he came to the hospital, he said he saw black bugs. He said words would pop loose from their moorings in sentences and levitate on the page. They’d bounce around, and then scramble the sentences. Sure, he acts a little strange sometimes, but he’s nice strange. I’ve never seen him upset, never seen him lash out, and he writes like a young Edgar Allen Poe. When I call him Edgar Allen, he lights up and smiles. He’s the kind of kid you’d like to protect from the world while thinking the world may need protecting from him.

Below is one of the many poems he wrote in my class.


Scream by Mason

In isolation, the world spins backwards.

Sleeping insanity, dreaming of power.

Awake, awake, before it’s too late.

For in the end you cannot clean this slate.

Falling up and jumping down.

I pretend to smile when inside I frown.

The demon is sleeping. The hour is peeking.

How can I find this peace I am seeking.

Buried alive inside my throat.

Bound in chains and a black coat.

A rotting grave full of death and decay.

Out comes misery. In this place I’ll stay.

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