DID YOU HELP THIS BOY COMMIT SUICIDE?
Over the course of my life, a new ethic has emerged or perhaps has only been revitalized. MYOB. For the few of you who don’t know that is Mind Your Own Business. Makes nations isolationists, makes people accomplices.
Hate talk surrounds us: listen to the radio, watch the rants of talking heads on television, read the polarizing op-eds, look beyond your friends on the internet. Hate talk is destroying peace on earth and in America.
Our youth are particularly vulnerable to hate talk and at least with parents follow a “Don’t ask me and I won’t tell you” ethic. Moreover, when it comes to certain issues, parents add their voices in loud or whispering ways to hate talk and make it less likely a despairing teen will seek their help.
Adolescence is a time of great loss. ( See my article: Time to Mourn Again which written for foster children pertains to all adolescents.) The hopes and dreams of childhood suddenly die. The change often comes rapidly. One day your child consults you about every thing, tells you all, and idolizes you; the next day everything you say or do is trash and you have become if not the enemy, at least, a know-nothing. The peer group becomes the major source of acceptance and it feels like a death blow if you are among the rejected by that group. Fortunately for most families and youth, the emotional survival rate is high and in many ways, the child feels safest rebelling and arguing with family knowing at heart the love will go on.
Being at odds with family values is part of finding who you are. Sadly that may mean total alienation from parents and other family members. The continuum is broad. Perhaps hardest is being gay in a condemning family, but alienation can sprout from something as small as being a book-worm in a family of athletes or being athletic in a family of book worms.
Add a challenge that creates alienation within a peer group and the despair can grow. Another reason for the suicide of teens centers around romantic notions about death. As one suicide attempt survivor told me:
“I saw everyone gathered around my grave, weeping because they hadn’t been kinder to me.”
Religions that venerate the joys of heaven are part of this tendency to romanticize death. The Catholic Church tries to counter the fact wanting to get to heaven may lead to suicide by the idea that killing yourself keeps you from you heaven. Islamic fanatics use the hope for a better life as a weapon of war.
So what can one do? I try hard to practice the universal code of morality–treating others as you want to be treated. Practice Kindness toward all is one of my Daily Emotional Fitness Exercises. Not easy when voices in your head and join with those around you who talk hate. I try silencing those voices by using two strategies. The strategies are summed up by these slogans “To understand all is to forgive all.” “Condemn the behavior, not the person.”
When people are full of hate and cruelty something sad and awful went wrong in their lives. In the end, suicide is the expression of something so wrong death seems preferable. Defusing that idea is part of suicide prevention. Whenever I talked with a suicide survivor, I discussed religious views of suicide this way after asking about theirs:
“Faith is a hope, and particularly about what happens when we die. I hope somehow we go on and the wrongs of our life are finally corrected. I hope, but my hope is not necessarily reality and most often it seems to me that death remains a great unknown to those of us here. Life is all we really know and may be all we really have.”
Speaking against hate will not make you popular, but it might help save lives. Finally, here is a useful link if you or anyone you know thinks life might not be worth living. If you or a loved one are in emotional distress, please call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ` 1-800-273-TALK ‘. They want to help and are available 24/7. Life can be better.
Share, care, and stay strong, not easy, but the best way to make a difference.