Who does suicide really hurt?

Suicide is murder of the self.  Don't we all do that every day, by degrees, from the day we come out into the world and learn to adapt, to mold ourselves to familial and societal expectations, to grow up? Children are chastised for saying what they think, for doing what they want, for crying when they don't get it.  But aren't they more honest, more alive?

Four teenagers have killed themselves over the course of this school year in my town. Emotions are running high: fear, outrage, determination, shock, anger, and of course, grief.  But people rarely talk about what the person might have felt, other than assuming it was depression or loneliness.  Maybe it was something else entirely, like horror at the life ahead.  That Blue Oyster Cult song "Don't Fear the Reaper" plays in my head in an endless loop every time I hear of a teen killing him or herself.  Maybe it seems glamorous or exotic or as if the person has control over his or her life in a way that didn't feel possible in any other way or any other time.  Why is it so often young women?  Girls, really?  Because they feel they don't fit in?  Conform?  Belong?

I wonder about the current craze with vampires, who offer some strange alternative to death, endless life in some altered state, with power to grant others this half-life, or eternal life, depending on your point of view.  To me this craze seems closely allied with the dystopian, apocalyptic trend in books and movies, as if we are all a little depressed, all seeing some end-of-days scenario looming in the middle distance.  Truth be told, we are not leaving a very nice world to our teenagers to sort out, so who can honestly blame those who choose to check out early?

There are seven billion people in the world, clearly unsustainable in every way; yet we are desperate, many of us, to preserve our own lives and the lives of our loved ones and sometimes even the lives of people we don't know, most especially those we consider vulnerable and cute, preferably both, hence the wide-eyed needful of the Save the Children, Save Darfur, Save Save Save campaigns.  But at heart most of us really only care about our dear ones, and when others near them are taking their lives (in vain, some say) and that is considered contagious, we panic.

What to do?  What to do?  Celebrating the life that the person clearly didn't or couldn't value just seems weird and all about the survivors, as most things funereal are, I guess.  Listen to the words of the song again, really listen: "We'll be able to fly."  Maybe we have to acknowledge and honor their choice, that ultimate choice, that was theirs and theirs alone to make, consequences for those left behind be damned. Because if we don't have choice, what do we have?



  1. Oh, so interesting! I think for me the most impactful thing I've heard is "I didn't realize I'd live through it" in response to a life altering choice, from an episode of Cold Case in which one teenage girl killed another who could have embarrassed her by exposing something more trivial she had done. Also, a permanent solution for a temporary situation. So many people suffer from depression and forget that depression lies, so they believe what it tells them. There are so many reasons people make that choice. Ultimately, it's so selfish. Yet sometimes we must understand how the person made that choice and forgive them. My thoughts here are underdeveloped and less than eloquent- thanks for more food for thought.

  2. Heavy duty stuff! Interesting thought, Becca, that "depression lies" I believe that; it's so easy for teens especially to think things can never change. So sad - i feel for your kids and your community, Kirsten.
    And so hard for us all sometimes to keep a postive outlook. Yet... Do we make a mistake by thinking depression is something that must be "fixed" when often it's a normal temporary reaction to life's events? Regardless, I hope counseling is readily available!


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