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What Is a ‘Back-To-School Necklace’? All About This Disturbing Trend That Parents Need To Know About

Abigail Nobel
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Joined: 3 years ago
Posts: 529
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Parade explains a new trend, but doesn't say where it's happening, or how much.

Interestingly, the journalist is a Grand Rapids mom.

Are school kids in your community using this term?

What Is a ‘Back-To-School Necklace’? All About This Disturbing Trend That Parents Need To Know About

Although it sounds like a fun accessory, this phrase has a truly dark explanation.
JUL 27, 2023

The end of summer break is approaching. That means it will soon be normal to hear about all things back-to-school. Shopping is one activity that is common to hear about at this time; after all, going to the store for new school clothes and accessories is exciting for both kids and parents. 

But if you hear students discussing back-to-school necklaces, it's important to note that they're not talking about a new, cute piece of jewelry. Instead, it's a troubling phrase (that doesn't seem alarming on the surface) you might hear in conversation or see on social media. So what exactly is a back-to-school necklace? We explain.

What is a "back-to-school necklace"?

On Urban Dictionary, a back-to-school necklace is described as "another name for a noose. This is due to the utter despair you feel when school starts back up again." 

Some examples of its use include: "I'm about to buy my back-to-school necklace," "I can't wait to get a back-to-school necklace," "Thinking about that back-to-school necklace," "That back-to-school necklace is calling me," "I can't wait to wear my back-to-school necklace," etc.

So, although a back-to-school necklace sounds innocent enough to those unaware of its real meaning, it is actually a cry for help as it's a code for death by hanging. 

But once parents are educated on this term, they are in a better position to help.

If you're not sure how to talk about this, Samantha Westhouse, LLMSW, a psychotherapist and maternal-infant health social worker, recommends having your child lead the conversation. "Start off by saying, 'I heard about this thing called back-to-school necklaces—do you know anything about that?'" she advises. "I think an open conversation is always beneficial. It's always important to refrain from judgment so your child feels comfortable sharing how they are feeling."

Just making the effort to check in can go a long way. "Parents should feel empowered to talk to their children about mental health in general," explains Emily Cavaleri, LLMSW, a school social worker and child and family therapist. And in relation to back-to-school conversations, she adds, "Share personal stories about how you felt starting school each year, especially if you had feelings of dread when you were a child. Let them know you will help them work through any feelings or get them professional help if needed."

Why is there so much dread as students approach the beginning of the school year?

Some apprehension is understandable as students anticipate adjusting to a new normal after the summer months. "Returning to school can feel overwhelming for a variety of reasons," Cavaleri shares. "Some students struggle with thoughts of a new school, a new teacher, a new schedule, etc. Students are going from sleeping in and a relaxed schedule, to early mornings and busy days."

And oftentimes, these struggles feel insurmountable for students. After all, the CDC has revealed, "More than 1 in 3 high school students had experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2019, a 40 percent increase since 2009."

"I think it could be a combination of what socialization has looked like the last [three] years on top of the age," Westhouse expands. "If we think about it now, 13-year-olds were 10 when we were all in lockdown. [They were] doing school virtually and missing out on regular clubs, sports and socialization. Add in mass school shootings and what we have experienced in our world over the last few years. It all makes an impact."

What are some warning signs parents should be on the lookout for?

"If someone is using this phrase, there is a high chance that they are struggling with their mental health," Cavaleri says. "Whether your child is seriously contemplating suicide or they use this phrase as a cry for help, signs you may see [include] spending time alone, acting withdrawn, irritability, crying easily and often, sleeping more than usual, difficulty sleeping, loss of interest in things they used to enjoy, giving away belongings, and overall, a change in behavior." 

Even if you have not heard your child use this phrase, it may be a phrase they use on their phones, Cavaleri points out. "They may use it via text or social media platforms," she says. "Parents should be aware of their children's electronic use. Students of any age may be using this phrase and having these feelings, so look for signs in your children, from young children to adolescent age."

What should students know about using or hearing the phrase "back-to-school-necklace" with friends?

"Students should know that using this phrase is very serious," Cavaleri warns. "Joking around about harming yourself and especially killing yourself is not ok. If they are truly having these feelings, they should not feel ashamed and seek help. If students hear or see their friends using this phrase, they should tell an adult, even if their friend tells them not to."

Westhouse agrees, saying that even if your child or teen is quick to brush it off, they should know "that it’s serious, even if they think it’s a joke. I would encourage you to educate your child and if they notice their friends using the phrase to address it with school staff."

Parents are able to be the first line of support for their children. The CDC recommends that parents "supervise their adolescent to facilitate healthy decision-making," "spend time with their adolescent enjoying shared activities" and be involved with the school by either volunteering or communicating regularly with teachers and administrators.

Westhouse would also advocate for the schools to have a policy in place to help students. As the CDC reports, before the pandemic in 2019, "approximately 1 in 6 youth reported making a suicide plan in the past year, a 44% increase since 2009." 

In order to help your child feel less overwhelmed with going back to school, Cavaleri recommends preparing for school early by "getting organized, visiting the school/walking [their] schedule if allowed, getting sleep and eating healthy."

Ultimately, knowledge is power, and knowing that this is an issue impacting many children and teenagers means that parents can have greater awareness and seek out additional help. Westhouse and Cavaleri both recommend seeking therapy as well as utilizing the new 988 suicide helpline if needed.

Kelsey Pelzer is the Deputy Editor, Lifestyle for Parade.
After seven years in New York City, she now resides in the Grand Rapids metropolitan area of Michigan with her husband and their two children.
Most of the time, she's shamelessly thinking up brand new "dad jokes."
If you're trying to brainstorm baby names, she can definitely give you some ideas.
Prior to her current role, she worked for Parade as a contributing writer with a focus on SEO-driven articles and as a freelance editor helping manage the Lifestyle vertical with calendar planning, sending out assignments, top-editing stories across multiple verticals and more. Previously, she was an editorial assistant at Bauer Media Group.
Pelzer's background also includes operational leadership with extensive experience in writing and implementing training materials, creating new processes, and tracking and reporting business trends. She received the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group's annual "Core Award" in 2013 for exemplary work and embracing the organization's core values.
For fun, Pelzer writes at her Substack, Offering in Shorthand, which is filled with "thoughtful odds and ends written in haikus and other super-short-forms."
When she's not editing, you can find her changing her kids' diapers or endlessly closing out tabs in her browser.
Attended Grace Christian University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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Abigail Nobel
Member Admin
Joined: 3 years ago
Posts: 529
Topic starter  

WWMT reports on student use of the state designated anonymous tip line. 

The cumulative review includes several videos and info-graphics.

Michigan students use anonymous tip line to report suicide threats, surpass other concerns

FLINT, Mich. - Students from across the state of Michigan are increasingly reporting suicide threats to the anonymous tip site called OK2Say.

18% of all information reported to this tip line includes those types of threats.

Since that anonymous tip line started back in 2014, suicide threats have been the number one concern shared with OK2SAY.

But as one local psychologist explains, suicides and suicide ideation have only increased since 2020.

“I think since that time, we've seen an increase in suicidal risk for, for many groups for young African Americans, for younger children, for girls, and for the LGBTQ+ community," says Dr. Daniel Dulin, a psychologist at Mott Children’s Health Center.

What he sees is an increase in younger children with suicidal thoughts.

“I think that there's a very large statistical increase in suicidal ideation and suicides among kids, ages eight to 14 where we often used to think of this as more of a later teenage risk. I think that kids are just carrying quite a load up there," he says.

Michigan uses OK2SAY its confidential service that allows students to submit tips.

You can submit everything from assaults to planned school attacks, to hate crimes.

In January there were 128 suicide threats reported to OK2SAY.

Michigan students use anonymous tip line to report suicide threats, surpass other concerns

More than any other reported activity by students.

“I think it's so important for us also to let people know that they can do something about how they feel," says Dr. Dulin.

Dr. Dulin says talking to someone can be beneficial to many children and teens who are struggling with these thoughts.

“I think it's so important to help young people connect with good people in their lives, to have lots of opportunities for engagement ways they can develop themselves and experience skill building and just everyday enjoyment," he says.

Since OK2SAY launched in 2014, there have been more than 9,000 reports of suicide threats more than any other concern for students.

Michigan students use anonymous tip line to report suicide threats, surpass other concerns

If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide there is help.

The 988 crisis lifeline is available 24.7 to call or text.

Here in Genesee County, there are resources like Mott Children’s Health Center and Genesee Health System.

Abigail Nobel
Member Admin
Joined: 3 years ago
Posts: 529
Topic starter  

As in every issue and non-issue, bills have been proposed. I'm putting this article here as a related topic, rather than in the bill section because as the author points out, these bills have not advanced to a hearing.

Mackinac Center offers perspective on state school interference with child mental health issues and parental responsibility.

Do kids need mental health days?

And is this a matter for lawmakers in a state that struggles with school attendance?

By James David Dickson | March 15, 2024


Rep. Noah Arbit, D-West Bloomfield Township, and Sen. Sarah Anthony, D-Lansing, have sponsored nearly identical bills allowing K-12 students in Michigan up to five mental health days per school year.

Such things should be left between parents and schools. There shouldn’t be a law for everything. Thankfully, neither bill has received as much as a hearing. Lansing’s involvement in sick days sends several bad messages to kids. The worst among them is that lawmakers can give kids permission to skip school that parents, teachers and schools must honor without question.

Life is hard. But in many ways, lesson No. 1 is to keep showing up. School is where we first learn this lesson. The prodding to get out of bed and be productive comes from our first teachers and our parents. Unlike math or reading, this lesson isn’t taught on the blackboard. It’s earned when we leave warm beds to enter a cold world.

Why would your parents make you do such a thing? Because it’s important to learn how to be disciplined and do things you might not always want to do.

Mental health days granted on high from Lansing send a bad societal signal. It programs children to embrace their fragility, and it encourages parents to indulge this. It also involves the state in decisions best made by parents and schools.

We don’t need a new law. We need adults to think things through on a case-by-case basis. Is that too much to ask?

Michigan schools already have an attendance problem. In 2022-23, 31% of students in Michigan were chronically absent, meaning they missed 10% of the school year. In 2021-22, 38.5% of students were chronically absent.

The COVID-19 pandemic was the dividing line. In 2018-19, the last full year before the pandemic, 20% of Michigan students were chronically absent. That was still too high.

Then schools were shut down. Some students in Michigan had only intermittent access to a classroom education for the better part of two school years. A school attendance habit built over decades was ruined in weeks. Rebuilding it won’t be easy. And mental health days won’t help.

Five free mental health days per year would be a burden placed on kids, not a gift given to them. Missing days does not mean missing work. It only makes the stack bigger when the student does return.

Schools and school days exist to help lay the building blocks of education. Of course, kids won’t always feel like going. Those days are often when it’s most important that they do go. On the occasion a kid needs a day off, the parent is the best judge.

James David Dickson is a Detroit News columnist and managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Email him at This column ran first in The Detroit News on March 13.



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