A million questions why?

Toby and me 114

One of the first questions asked by survivors of bereavement by suicide is – why? We are born programmed with an inner sense of self-preservation; fight or flight. If faced with danger we can access huge surges of adrenaline that may help us run from danger. We are taught our whole lives to stay safe and avoid anything that may harm us, so it can be a completely alien concept that someone would end their own life.

I have learned not to look for answers. Suicide is a complex subject and even academics and scholars cannot definitively tell us why people die from suicide. I know some survivors who find it helps them to cope with their loss by blaming a relationship break up, a job loss, financial problems etc., however there are millions of people in the world who go through devastating times but do not take their own life. I am always amazed when anyone asks me why Toby took his own life but they do not understand as I do that there is never a single reason. A relationship break up or a job loss or financial problems may be the final straw for someone who is suffering and it may be a catalyst, but not a reason.

I cancelled my Netflix subscription a few weeks ago, but I was told this morning that there is a series that has gone viral, aimed at teenagers called “13 reasons why..”. I read some reviews this morning and the storyline is about a teenager who takes her own life and then leaves 13 messages on cassettes to all the people who she holds responsible for her ending her life. So is this irresponsible and sending out a dangerous message to our teenagers? I haven’t seen it so will reserve judgement but I would say that when making TV shows aimed at teenagers there should be sense of responsibility. We should be making TV shows about teenagers overcoming bullies and broken relationships and building their self-esteem so high they can travel the roller coaster of life more easily. We should be teaching them that if they feel miserable there are plenty of other people who feel the same and that there is a lot of help out there they can access whether it be websites, help lines, school and college counsellors, and not forgetting their family and friends.

Making a drama aimed at teens implying that someone can get revenge on people that have treated them badly by taking their own life and then leaving them messages seems extremely irresponsible. Teens are especially vulnerable and there is evidence that glamourising suicide can cause contagion. In Bridgend in Wales around 2007/8 there was a spate of suicides and many of the suicide victims were teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17. Most were male and many knew each other. The media were blamed for sensationalist reporting and social media memorial sites were set up for some of the teenagers who died which was also cited as a reason that might have encouraged others. It seems unbelievable that someone would choose to die to get recognition, but again we have to remember that teenagers are vulnerable to peer pressure and with the advent of social media the world has changed.

I am not a big fan of political correctness; however the media must be aware of the responsibility they have when reporting or making TV shows about mental health and suicide, now more than ever. I don’t know if the show has any kind of message at the beginning or end signposting people to helplines. I don’t know why Toby took his own life, I will never know and I have made peace with that. I know he was a young man struggling with life and spent a lot of time online, so maybe he was influenced by something he saw or read that made him see ending his life as a solution to his struggle. I also know there are many other young men and women who struggle with life but get through it and go on to lead happy, healthy lives.

On a positive note the show has led to a lot of discussion about mental health and young suicide, I would rather it wasn’t out there, but now it is let’s use it to educate and inform.

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3 Responses to A million questions why?

  1. Anne this is a great post. So important that suicide is in no way glamourised or seen as a weapon.
    Most suicidal people are suffering from depression , even if undiagnosed and unrecognised, which is an illness that disables the body’s in-built self-preservation instincts. This is why they do not weather their problems, as most of us do, but find a way to escape from them altogether. As you say, external problems are a catalyst for the suicide and not the actual cause, which lies in a malfunction of the thought processes in the sufferer’s brain.
    I am shocked to hear about this series, just at a time when Heads Together seems to be doing so much to raise awareness of the appalling suffering which accompanies mental ill-health.
    Henrietta x

  2. Lisa says:

    This series came out he day my son committed suicide. You have no I idea what’s going through their minds or what’s going on socially if they do not open up to us parents. I thought I was very open and honest with all my children. I thought I did the best that I could as being a single mom, teaching them to be kind, generous, loving, respectful. Kids don’t tell parents the ultimate complete truth. I did watch this 13 Reasons Why. Kids are cruel, heartless that can damage someone who isn’t that strong inside that leads to severe depression. There are also other reasons why, home life, friends, school, girlfriends….maybe too much for someone to handl at such a young age. Its depression from early on and events that lead up to the desperation from the release of your pain no matter the consequence or thoughts of the after effects to others. I cry every single day. I don’t know how to get through my days and I have two other children to try to be strong for. I’m obsessed with having all my sons things around me, talking bout all his favorite things, pictures, songs, everywhere, I live and breathe his death. I pray that God will take me to him soon so we can meet the rest of our family in due time. This world is a cruel place without emotion or compassion for human life. Not the life I expected to live in by far. This world has turned to shit so to be honest Im looking forward to the other side when God calls me home. Then I will met my son with open arms. Forever.

  3. Caroline says:

    I lost my son 31/1/17 by suicide September will be bad his birthday is in September it will be the first time in 39 years I haven’t got him a card. People ask how are you, I say OK but I will never be OK .
    I moved recently to start afresh he was everywhere I went. I had his box I have made with pieces of him. Photographs of him from baby to adult. His school reports his phone one of his jumpers lock of his hair ( his DNA) . I have his coat the last thing I saw him wearing.
    I crumpled in a heap crying sobbed like the first time I cried.

    I am to make a memorial garden for him put his ashes fill with flowers. I will have a seat there where I can sit and talk to him.
    I cannot forget someone that’s part of me half of me is empty I am not whole. My daughter helps she is the only one who knew him as well as I did. She tells me not to be so hard on myself but the world is not the same .

    We have to learn to accept but his loss can come at any moment when I least expect it. Grief is unexplainable just an in comprehensible sadness which dosnt seem to have a time limit.

    Now I just live day to day and don’t think ahead too far. I miss him every single moment .

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