Since becoming a survivor of suicide, I feel like I can’t escape the news of more suicides happening around me. I don’t know if that’s really the case, or if it’s that my ears now perk up when I hear the term, but it makes me uncomfortable. I’m reminded of when I was on the brink of becoming engaged, getting married or having a baby and it also felt like everyone around me was going through those particular life stages except me. Every time I’d hear another announcement, I’d cringe inside wondering why it wasn’t my turn yet.
Lately, when I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed, it seems like People Magazine and other publications share about a sensational suicide at least once every couple of weeks. I read some of the comments and see that people are quick to reference a suicide they recently experienced in their community or circle. Or, these same news outlets feature a loved one, like a widow from the Real Housewives or former flame of a Bachelor contestant talking about their loves who died by suicide. As I logged online to pen this post, I learned of the suicide of a suspect in the shooting of two people in Milwaukee in early April. I used to live there and it was a story I had been following.
I was particularly shocked and saddened to hear of the recent passing of award-winning chef Homaro Cantu of Moto restaurant in Chicago on April 14. After a long day, I opened Facebook and saw a breaking news headline that he had been found in one of his new establishments. This really affected me for a few reasons. First, he was only 38 years old and such a promising talent in the city. His life ended much too soon. Second, I had the opportunity to meet him and work on a small project for a social media event. He was so friendly and generous and seemed to have the world at his fingertips. Third, I had enjoyed Tweeting along with some of his chefs while they were competing in Top Chef on TV. Fourth, I received a promotional email from his restaurant with his name on it only the day before. I just felt a connection to him in many ways, even though he was a relative stranger. When I saw that headline, my heart and gut sank. I immediately sent a text to Jessica to see if she had heard the news and ask if it was strange I felt so sad about someone I hardly knew. When I saw the headline, I just screamed “No!” “I’ve had enough! Why does this keep happening?!” And then I started to get angry about how suicide just doesn’t stop and how I feel so helpless in my fight to eliminate it. The following day, I pictured the family waking up in that post-shock, “did this really happen?” fog and really felt for them.
After every single article I see, I try to write to the editors to remind them how the quick-to-report nature of suicide troubles the families left behind. This is a personal agenda since the media wrote so quickly about my dad’s death that the whole town and Internet learned about it before I could, because I was in a work meeting in another city. Needless to say, I was beyond traumatized. We also offer to talk with the media about how they can help to reduce the stigma of suicide in society or how they can provide resources for those left behind. But, I never hear a response. Ever. It’s so frustrating. It just seems like they want to perpetuate the sensational acts and not try to prevent them or help the families. (I’ve even thought about taking a Facebook hiatus since it seems to bring me so much anger and annoyance.) Sometimes, I even wonder if blogging about this topic is too much to bear since it keeps me in this mindset, but when we receive comments that we are helping those who have been bereaved, it gives me the motivation to continue. I know there are not nearly enough lines of support out there.
I tried to check with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to see if suicide rates really are increasing as much as I feel like they are around me. But, data is usually delayed a couple of years.
Unfortunately, because I have experienced a suicide in my family, I do have difficulty hearing about other suicides in society. I think it’s because I am so unbelievably terrified about it happening in such close proximity again. Since I obviously do not have the power to wipe suicide away completely, I simply have to chalk this discomfort up to another piece of baggage my dad’s own death forced me to carry.
How do you react when you hear or read about other losses of this nature?