Americans are good at hysteria. They’re also masters at mistaking correlation with causation. Or vice versa.
Yesterday an article in Time emerged that teen suicides rose 19 percent after the TV show 13 Reasons Why was released.
So maybe we shouldn’t make movies about teen suicide any more since teens’ delicate psyches are so malleable and prone to misinformation that they just can’t help themselves – take a class of high school freshmen to see Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and you’ll have lemming like teenagers taking poison and stabbing themselves all over the country.
Take the same ‘data’ on teen suicides and match it up on a timeline since Trump was elected. I would be willing to bet you that the graphs will show both lines ‘correlating.’
But no one wants to go there because when 13 Reasons Why came out, the self-appointed guardians of teen psychology were aghast that the show depicted the young lady’s suicide as a rational act.
Everyone knows that people who kill themselves are not in their right mind. Just like the inmates at Auschwitz who hurled themselves against the electric fences rather than spend one more day in that Hell. They just needed to practice their CBT a little harder to deal with their situations, right?
I mean modern American life could NEVER cause anyone to ‘choose’ suicide as an option, right?
Mere circumstances would never be enough to cause anyone to make a rational decision to end their lives? They have to be ‘crazy,’ or ‘out of their minds,’ right?
I watched the entire series of 13 Reasons Why and when Hannah took her life, I completely understood why and didn’t blame her a bit. Everyone had both betrayed and failed her. She was presented with an intolerable situation where her reputation was shattered and there was no one to turn to who would listen and understand what she was really going through.
Sort of like those real life kids who, after being bullied for an intolerable time, go home, very carefully position the rope over their closet door and hang themselves. Or get the key to their dad’s gun case and unlock the Glock 27, pull the slide back, place it carefully in their mouths and pull the trigger. Very deliberate and deliberative acts. They just don’t leap in front of a bus on their way home from school, no, they think about how it’s going to go down – when, where and how.
And it happens just about every day. These children are waving huge red flags and we just walk right by them, refusing to see. Again, unless we can make a buck off of it. Poor kids get to die without the benefit of psychiatry.
What is it about our society that makes so many people want to kill themselves including our children? Could it be that America is a very cruel and unforgiving place where people are too busy with surviving at work or too invested in protecting their careers to give a shit about our children? That we’re a cruel nation in that many people now actually encourage bullying to ‘toughen kids up’ for the ‘real world?’ A society that gleefully goes about destroying the ability to sustain life on Earth for fun and profit? The kids who march and write on the subject aren’t naive – they know exactly what is going on. They’re seeing their parents’ and grandparents’ generations destroying their future right in front of their eyes and feel near helpless to do anything about it.
Taking all of this and more into account, my heart grieves beyond measure for all of the misunderstood children that take their lives – but I fully understand because I was once there myself. I had an abusive father, an enabling mother, a cruel sister and sadistic nuns for teachers. There was no one to talk to, nowhere to go to find anyone I could trust. My mother shipped me off to a smoke ring blowing, semi-disinterested psychologist to salve whatever weirdness my parents were unable and/or unwilling to put up with.
My first thoughts of suicide were in the sixth grade. Relentless bullying, abuse at home and nowhere to turn. I could have easily accessed my father’s guns – in fact I did – when he wasn’t around I would get the extra key ‘hidden’ in the top of the hutch (a hutch I now own and look at every day) and unlock them and measure the distance between the barrel, the trigger and my mouth. This was sixth grade.
Why didn’t I? Because I had one thing going for me that I thought could rescue me – my own intelligence and skill at writing. If my father didn’t kill me (and he would get crippling lymphoma when I was 18-19 and die when I was 20), I knew, I just knew, that I could escape. After all, I got a job at a real newspaper when I was a senior in high school. But I counted down every single day, every month, every school day.
It’s a good thing that kid didn’t know what was in his future. Looking back, maybe I should have done it and saved myself a lifetime of grief dealing with my self-destructive Borderline Personality Disorder. I would have saved myself the fumbling efforts of 32 psychologists, the taking of more than 35 psych drugs, some of which caused terrible side effects. I would have saved myself from the agony and regret of losing my careers in radio and journalism because I could not handle my emotions. I would have saved myself from the agony and regret of two divorces and the way I mis-raised my children.
Oh yes, maybe I should have done it when I was 13.
It would have been a very rational decision under the circumstances then and now.
Kids aren’t naive. They see, they feel, they hurt, they emote. They NEED us to give a damn. They don’t need to be asked ‘how ya’ doin’ and then be expected to say fine, fine, goddamned fine, all the time to everyone. Because they know no one in this society really wants to hear about their problems, their fears and their abuse – unless they can make a buck off of it.
Kids see the society they live in. They see the armed guards and the soon to be armed teachers. They see and experience the active shooter drills. They see the strain that struggling to maintain a middle class life is having on their parents, if their parents are even together. They see the media and the broader society telling them that whatever is happening to them is their fault and they just need to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and stop being such pussies.
And many, too many of them, calculate their own odds of survival in this barbaric system and quietly, rationally, make their fatal choices.
They are not naive. They are simply reacting to an insane society and their inability to believe they will ever find happiness and peace within it.
America, you are killing your children. What are you going to do about it?
So please spare me the ‘crazy’ and ‘not in their right mind’ explanations of suicide either teen or adult. Yes, there are those who do make impulsive decisions – but there are many more who have been thinking about it for quite a while and decide when they have reached the point where life becomes unbearable.
I can’t end this screed here. I am so sick of all of the messaging and ‘campaigns’ to end suicide in this country. I see them here at the VA. We hooked an entire generation of veterans on opiates and then yanked them away. We then offered these hurting people yoga and acupuncture, and when they went into the streets for heroin cut with fentanyl, we washed our hands of them. Careers have to be protected; these men and women were expendable. I’ve seen them. I see them every day and my heart is heavy for what I know and cannot question. I sit less than 100 yards from where a female veteran blew her brains out with a pistol. I walk over the pavement where she died almost every day. Last week three more veterans shot themselves in the parking lots of three VA hospitals. They get an article in the newspaper and everyone moves on and nothing really changes.
NAMI and many other mental health organizations have people making careers out of anti-suicide campaigns that will have little or no impact because none of them call upon society to change itself. The afflicted are expected to DBT themselves into conformity with a fundamentally insane society rather than any attempt on the part of these organizations, many of whom have people in government and media that sit on their boards, to call for a reformation of our society.
So keep watching the bodies pile up. In no small way, we, the societal ‘we,’ have made the choice to see the wounded, the hurting and the vulnerable of our society as expendable in our mad rush for money, position and power. Yes, stack the bodies high! Perhaps to the moon and back.
But don’t stand there and tell me that for most people, hurting as they are, that for them, suicide is not a rational decision.