Today I want to talk about a topic that is very sensitive to a lot of people, including myself, and that topic is suicide. I have to confess I’m a little nervous about writing this entry because it does hit close to home however in light of some recent (and not so recent) events I feel it is time to open up on this issue. As a society we’ve made a lot of progress in numerous areas ranging from sexual abuse, diversity and mental disorders (and of course more progress needs to be made) but there is one elephant in the room that nobody is really talking about, that most people don’t even know how to talk about and that is suicide.
Two events got me thinking about this issue and they are: the release of pictures of Jared Leto as the Joker in Suicide Squad and the tragic suicide of Everybody Loves Raymond star Sawyer Sweeten. These two incidents, happening all within the course of a week or so, made me think, “does society have a disconnect when it comes to suicide?”
The answer is yes, of course we do.
Let me state something now and get it out of the way. I do not believe anybody is going to read or watch Suicide Squad and go kill themselves. I get it. it’s a graphic novel/movie. It’s art and a pretty fun idea at that. Just like I don’t think playing Dungeons and Dragons is going to cause a person to practice witchcraft or playing video games is going to cause a kid to shoot up a school.
What I do think is that maybe we are a little cavalier with the S word. What I do have a problem with is stuff like this……
The Suicide Girls. If you are unfamiliar with them they are professional model/pin-up troupe that have their own website and travel to conventions etc. (I have actually seen them at Comic-Con before). I have a problem with this because unlike the Joker, these are real people sexualizing suicide in a tragically morose but hip kind of way (what does this teach young girls?). Then there is the band Suicidal Tendencies and movies like The Virgin Suicides (more sexuality and suicide).
The problem is what happens when somebody struggling with suicide sees or hears these things? Or what about somebody who has lost a loved one or a friend to suicide? What do they think? I remember when I was a kid a distant relative of mine committed suicide. I never knew him but my mom did. Recently, I saw his father post this on Facebook, “today was my son’s XX birthday. He died in 1989. Miss him!” What does this father think of all this suicide fascination?
I know what I think. It gives me pause for thought, a split second of hesitation that touches a deep nerve inside of me. Why? Because of my own struggles with suicide. I’m not going to sugarcoat it or down play it. There have been times in my life when I seriously wanted to end it all. I know the despair and darkness depression brings and it is far more common than most people would ever imagine.
Here are a few stats from the CDC. In 2013 there were 41,149 deaths by suicide making it the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. with somebody taking their own life every 12.8 minutes. For ages 10-24 it is the second leading cause of death. If these rates applied to something like pneumonia would we call it an epidemic?
Yeah, Houston we have a big problem.
The fact is if you know somebody who suffers from mental disorders, abuse, PTSD, addiction and now even bullying, then you know somebody who has probably struggled with suicide.
So what do we do with all of this? Like I said, I’m not really blaming a movie or a band or a hot girl for people committing suicide. . But I do have a recommendation. To borrow a phrase from my good friend Tony Kim (aka Crazy4comiccon) let’s use these examples to “elevate the conversation.”
Let’s use these opportunities to learn how to talk about it. To raise awareness. To realize more people struggle with this then we would ever imagine. That we are not alone in our thoughts and there is no shame in admitting it. I bed of you don’t let these deaths go in vain. After all, there is an elephant in the room and its taking lives by the thousands.
That being said, I will leave you with this. These are not he faces of suicide.
If you want to read my thoughts on the Robin Williams death it’s here.
PS. If you are worried about me don’t be! I’m doing well. Thus is just a topic I felt needed discussion.