Please Scream Rather Than Leave A Note – Suicide In Our Lives

spade

Kate Spade / Anthony Bourdain


The other day, I read a NYT article that indicated suicide rates are rising at an alarming rate since 1999. The same day CNN listed a similar statistic at 25% since 1999. This was the day after Kate Spade had taken her life. I thought it a natural followup of a tragic event. This morning I woke to the news of Anthony Bourdain. His series ‘Parts Unknown’ has been receiving high ratings on CNN for years. These are two prominent members of our society based upon their achievements over decades. Yesterday at a conference, a colleague of mine made the poignant statement, ‘suicide isn’t selective’ in its victim.
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I’m really having a hard time wrapping my head around this. The first time I experienced suicide was when a friend of mine’s lover took his own life because he was terminal with cancer. I remember he lived a block away from me, and I probably could have heard the shotgun had I been on my deck, but I didn’t know about it until the next day. I remember his partner’s grief, and all the confusion that followed.
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Years later, a man named Spaulding Gray wrote a wonderful piece called ‘Swimming To Cambodia’ and I immediately fell in love with his writing, his persona, though I remember being tempered when once interviewed, he stated that when he knows he is too sick to enjoy a quality of life, he will jump in the East river. His body was fished out of that same river two years later. I was devastated. and again not fascinated, more sickened by the reality of such a gesture.
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In my own family, we have experienced such a tragedy, and there are never answers beyond the telling statement that depression is often a leading component in a person’s choice to take their own life. I’ve seen it too many times to count, and I still cannot wrap my head around it.
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I know in my life I’ve struggled with depression more than I would like to admit. I’ve felt the dark moments that I suggest to all of my students as they go on to college or just live their present lives that when those moments arise, they have to call someone, they cannot allow themselves any other choice. I recognize the hypocrisy of my emotional reaction to this terrible outcome in the lives of so many people in our society and world.
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Yet, all I can do today is speak to it from my heart. I didn’t personally know Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, Robin Williams, countless names in the public eye. I don’t know the names of all the people that the reader’s of this commentary have lost over the years. I only know the pain and confusion is real. I only know when my dark moments come, I cannot help but reflect upon the realities that exist around me on any given day.
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I can only suggest that people use the hotline – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, rather than accepting someone’s final option as the only answer. There have got to be solutions, and more importantly there has to be a greater awareness and acceptance around the stigma that is attached to mental illness and depression.

AP File Photo

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Different Moments

Recently, there were two,

lives we might call the same,

yet probably, more obviously,

vastly different lives,

worlds apart,

yet their outcomes,

well, we can probably imagine,

the same.

 

The meaning of which,

hard to explain,

yet, we want to know,

we ask the questions,

sitting together alone in our lives,

wondering just why,

when is this the time, when others

might still wander aimless

wondering only

about their next hour,

perhaps tomorrow,

even possibly a year ahead,

yet, these two …

 

Oh, to walk inside the mind of the dead,

to understand the next level,

be able to comprehend,

not likely to mend,

accept the truth yet I would

recommend,

the answer might be less

an epiphany,

more a sad reality,

but the question remains,

we all wonder about it together,

we wander the same streams,

the winding current of our lives.

 

The one, a musician,

his time came when the pain,

over came his emotions,

and later his family in the grieving period,

had to speak to the response

of his audience,

you and me,

the ones that miss him less then

they might ever possibly comprehend.

 

Yet the same,

the reality of the game,

out of our hands,

we just show up to

exclaim.

 

The other the choice is their own,

forget the others nearby,

find the solution today,

yet, that is the confusion,

we all would like to know,

now,

just why,

what fortune brought upon such pain,

and how can we all possibly

living,

not imagine its misfortune,

his misguided

solution.

 

We all do seem to have or hold or imagine,

these our different moments,

yet for me, they sometimes seem the very same.

What Rally Cry

Standing alone,

choosing alone,

no dial tone,

seems the last moments

will bend forever

the opportunity

to glance ahead,

beyond the scrutiny

deeply laid inside the victim’s head.

 

and then …

 

There is the question of whose hurt

is more measurable,

the choice,

or the outcome,

the afterward,

or perhaps it is the originator,

who by virtue of the human condition,

isn’t given any allowance

to return the favor of knowledge.

 

We just know the outcome.

The Obituary

I wonder how they felt it might read,

summing up their life,

in a nutshell,

passing through all of the bad times,

focus upon the good, the energy, the meaning,

the society we live in deems the necessary truths.

If we knew,

would we then change our mind,

if we could stand in the back of the church,

see the weeping eyes,

the countless expressions of confusion,

would we,

care.

 

I wonder what mine will say today,

as compared to years from now,

which would be more attractive,

the present reality

or that seeming legacy that time forgot,

only the pain did always remain,

a constant,

within even a moment of relief,

there would be the memory of how many times,

we might have,

he might have,

thought differently than to withstand

normalcy.

 

Oh the papers they might read,

and then in a week or two,

there his ashes would be spread.

I Cannot Move

I try

sometimes,

my energy propels me to a different place,

a satisfying luxury,

less common than I’d like to be,

yet it always happen,

the current,

the arms and hands and legs and

the talons

always seem to covet me,

without asking I might suggest, maintain, incite,

a certain flavor of dependency,

speaks to my purpose,

and it’s there I begin to play with

lunacy.

I wonder sometimes,

if it would be that easy,

lose my mind, become homeless, live in a street,

I wonder if I would worry quite as much as I do today,

when it seems I walk right past

the mirror.

Why “13 Reasons Why” Is Important

13

In the fine arts we are encouraged to go big with our ideas, to allow emphasis on the issue, the illusion, the piece of art being presented on the stage. The purpose is designed to get the point across to the audience, or keep them engaged. The true compliment to an artwork, no matter the venue, is that people continue the discussion beyond the actual event.

Watching 13 Reasons Why, a controversial Netflix series really blew my mind. I felt like I was back in my high school again, experiencing the turmoil that a teenager goes through trying to adjust, fit in, survive the utter chaos of peer rejection and acceptance, all in the same day, every day.

About half way through the series, episode 6, or tape 3 I was riveted to every moment. Watching Clay struggle with the reality of losing his friend was compelling. I watched the behavior of his circle of people, I won’t call them friends, because so often in this period of a teenager’s life it is difficult to define who a true friend is. 13 did an excellent job exploring that aspect of high school.

I felt like I was the student in the room, experiencing the pain that comes with pressure and bullying. While the world goes on around a teenager, their internal struggle is never really revealed, and 13 explored that well enough to suggest this is real behavior. I thought all the characters fit the proper stereotypes.

The parents of each character as they unfolded in the show seemed normal. What I mean is they depicted the dysfunction of raising a family, holding a job, keeping up with or losing touch with their responsibility. I think the relationship that tore me up the most was Justin and his mom, I felt his pain as he leaned against the wall and she closed the door on their communication.

The administrators of the school seemed effectively overwhelmed by their task. There was the initial counselor who basically didn’t get tenure and then the new guy came in and gradually established their grounding as a central figure. In the end, it was clear things were beyond his control. Imagine the guilt we feel as teachers when we realize we missed something, that if we had just … we can settle behind the reality that our role in the classroom is to deliver our curriculum. Clearly that was demonstrated in 13 Reasons Why, but at the same time, we could recognize the vulnerability that children experienced around adults that were not involved. Or, if they were, they didn’t have a clue.

As I suggested in the beginning, in order to keep an audience, a piece has to have big moments. In television plot lines are imperative, and this is where I began to lose my direct connection to the characters in 13. Everything that could possibly happen, did, all impacting this small group of peers. Why such a micro-managed focus on the energy of a typical high school? Because the ability to attach pain and suffering to familiar characters helps get the point across to the audience.

If we accepted our buy in to the characters then everything they went through was plausible. Much like the movie Crash years ago where a diverse populace all experienced tragedies and successes within a literal block of L.A., though perhaps not possible, the experience the characters endured was certainly believable in the right context.

In 13, the key to this story is they deal with every aspect of being a teenager – confusion with sexual identity, clear cognizance of sexual preference and the societal scrutiny, the lifestyle of a jock, of a nerd, a geek, an outlier, a weirdo, In every aspect of student or teenager, the experiences seemed real and tragic.

What is an important takeaway is to recognize the behaviors demonstrated throughout this series were pretty spot on for the most part. The story line of the tapes could actually happen, though the possibility of getting through a dozen involved students probably not likely. But, they all maintained their characters with a haunting consistency.

Finally, let’s not forget this is about suicide, and the helplessness that everyone feels with a loss they believe they are responsible for. Even though in the real world we always blame the person who takes their own life. The movie itself defined the act as weak. I found it interesting that the young woman who revealed her cuttings on her arms, suggested she was doing it right, that suicide is a cop out. I’ve worked with cutters in my hospital work, and there was always a distinction between real and attention seeking, vertical and horizontal cuts as so eerily demonstrated in the series.

13 might be perceived as a segment of peers in a typical high school all being responsible for Hannah’s death, but if that is a takeaway, it is possibly wrong. It really is the remarkable telling of a young person’s struggle to define themselves while walking through life in a world of hurt, and having the fortune to play out the process with direct and frightening evidence, ironically replayed in cassettes with haunting truth.

I believe this series, beyond the embellishment and soap opera moments, is vitally important, certainly not for the eyes of children under 12 – not yet, even though we think they’re ready. It is a wonderfully tragic piece to create healthy dialogue, whether the characters are realistic or not. I was moved.