It was fall 2007. I was in a new school district for the third time that year so I was used to being the new kid. What I wasn’t used to was the emotional and mental stamina it would take to navigate myself in that environment. There was a fight everyday, kids getting jumped in bathrooms, property being stolen, kids getting bullied for their looks. Looking back it all seemed like a typical middle school experience in an urban area, however being 12, my coping skills had yet to mature. So what did I do? I folded into myself and magnified these experiences, internalizing all of the hurt that I witnessed on a daily basis until I became withdrawn. I was depressed. My amazing mother did the best she could with the limited information she knew about what was going on at the school but it wasn’t enough. What do you tell a 12 year old that wants to kill themselves? Nothing. Because most likely you don’t know about it.
10 years have passed since that time along with the emotional turmoil but deep down underneath I still am connected to that quiet 12 year old that entertained the idea of suicide. This connection has made me more empathetic when I hear of tragedies such as Aaron Hernandez,Facebook shooter Steve Stephens, and most recently a teen couple in Ohio, Mercedes Smith and Markeice Brown. My empathy makes me sensitive to the complete disregard for the families of these victims via offensive social media post and undeserved criticism.
Even fictional portrays of suicide are open to harsh criticism. Netflix’s new show “13 Reasons Why” details how Hannah Baker, a teenage girl, copes with bullying among other things that ultimately lead to her suicide. Criticism range from her reasons for taking he life not being good enough all the way to her not being depressed enough. While there is obviously mass room for improvement for the show there is also room for improvement within the audience.
There is never a good reason to commit suicide so by belittling her reasons for doing so you ignore her negative thought patterns, lack of coping mechanisms, and emotional trauma. Even beyond the show there’s always that one person who thinks it’s cleaver to say how weak or stupid suicide is. Obviously if these victims had the mental and emotional capacity to endure their sufferings they would think so too, but they don’t and shouldn’t be chastised for it.Even if you don’t understand someones motives for suicide you should never belittle their feelings, this contributes to the stigma of mental illnesses and can make people reluctant to speak up.When tragedies such as suicide arise in our communities it should be used as an opportunity to spread mental health awareness, get people connected to resources, and have a forum for open dialogue. Perhaps most importantly it’s a time to practice compassion instead of contributing to further reluctance of people coming forth about their feelings.
For confidential, free help call or click: 1–800–273–8255 https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org