Since losing my dad, I seem to pay more attention to suicide in the news. Unfortunately, there has been much too steady of a pace of celebrity or high-profile suicides in the news lately and it has left me feeling “fatigued.” Are they happening more frequently, or is this the new media fixation of the moment? Upon waking up this morning, I did my usual scroll through Facebook and saw reports that Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro had taken his life in prison. On the “Today Show,” his lawyer expressed concern that he and the family learned about it through the news. (This happened to me two years ago and it was just as unpleasant…) He reminded viewers that even though Castro was deemed a monster, he was a human being and this revelation is still saddening. Does anyone like hearing that anyone killed themselves? No. Earlier last night, I saw a national story on my husband’s laptop homepage about a father who called police after discovering his wife had taken her life, as well as the life of their infant child. Rounding out my morning, I heard about a horrible situation involving a young rape victim who took her life before her attacker made it to court. The case is back in the news because the judge said “she was acting older than her chronological age of 14.” Days before this, the suicide of former “Bachelor” contestant Gia Allemand made headlines (filling the pages of the celeb gossip magazines I brought along on vacation). And lastly, there was a young former Nickelodeon star who died in late August, the Georgia man who nearly gunned down a school because “he had nothing to live for” and the bookkeeper who talked him down, admitting that she faced the same feelings in her life. Because of my research and familiarity on the topic, I know that this does happen on a daily basis. But, I feel like the media is more focused on reporting the sensational nature of these deaths than about the depression, mental anguish and illness, lack of support/treatment available to these individuals, or the reeling families. I am sure that some outlets and organizations go deeper, but on the surface I am just sick and tired of media wanting to be the first to report the news, highlight the sensational story of the deaths, glamorize bullying, note the celebrity connections, ignore the feelings of families/survivors, etc. I feel physically unsettled today.
I feel for each of these people who found life to be so painful that they chose to end it. I feel for the families, who are facing a very public showcase of their loved one and the way they died for readership, viewership and ratings. It saddens me to know that, like me, they will have an eternal online/media record of the suicide, rehashing details and photos they want to put behind them. I feel for survivors of suicide everywhere, who are forever haunted each time they see and hear the word in public, reminding them all too well of what they’ve experienced in their own families.
It’s just hard sometimes to pile all of this onto one’s existing personal grief. But, it’s inescapable unless you avoid the TV, newspaper, magazines and Internet altogether. I was refreshed recently when Jessica participated in a NPR radio program on “How We Talk About Suicide.” The host of the show asked whether or not it’s appropriate for media to cover suicides – I think they were focused on non-celebrity cases. Part of the rationale was that doing so might give those contemplating it ideas or the final push to go through with it. On the other hand, not talking about it only contributes to the stigma that this is something that should be kept quiet and also means we aren’t addressing potential ways to identify and help those who are struggling. I empathize with both sides of the argument. However, I did like that all parties ultimately agreed that we do need to elevate the discussion about suicide and the mental illness and depression that can lead to it. I appreciated that more also should be shared about survivors and how everyone should feel more comfortable seeking help and support. We need to highlight the resources that are available to those who need it.
I am happy to have a forum, like this blog, to bring a voice to this topic and meet/relate to others who are going through what I have. Though, I’ll always be sad that any of us have to come here in the first place.
This is more of a “rant” today than anything. I know this is all just part of living life in the new normalcy we’re in. I am going to face reminders and conversation about it daily. Today, it just seemed to hit me in a different way.
How do you react to suicide stories in the news? Do you read them or avoid the topic?