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Friday, March 22, 2019

Columns

Society too eager to glorify suicide


When someone commits suicide, people close to the situation are eager to cast blame on what they perceive to be the most obvious cause. They attempt to justify the person’s decision to take their own life.

In that haste, however, people fail to look past the surface in examining every possible reason as to why the person made that choice.

On Jan. 14, Phoebe Prince of South Hadley, Mass. hanged herself in the stairwell of her family’s home. Prince allegedly committed suicide after suffering relentless bullying from several of her classmates at South Hadley High School. Then on March 28, 13-year-old Jon Carmichael of Joshua ended his life after being picked on for years, according to his closest friends. Sources said Carmichael had been stuffed into a trashcan by several students the day before his death.

Everyone in the media has been in such a rush to blame school officials and other students for both suicides that they haven’t taken time to examine who or what is really at the root of the problem. Bullies may be partly responsible for the actions of Prince and Carmichael, but the problem goes much deeper than just taunting.

We as a society are sending a message to today’s youth. We celebrate the Hemingways, van Goghs and Cobains of the world as superstars — martyrs who chose to die for their art — instead of acknowledging that they were simply people who failed to realize all the reasons for which they had to live.

The world’s most famous love story even goes so far as to romanticize suicide, as both Romeo and Juliet kill themselves at the thought of having to live without one another.

If the aforementioned references seem a bit dated, look no further than the popular Twilight Saga for something more current. The series’ protagonist, Bella, an isolated teenager who has problems adjusting to the rigors of moving to a new town and school, ultimately tries to kill herself after her boyfriend breaks up with her.

It’s a sad statement for our culture that such icons are glorified and revered for their actions, because people’s reactions to suicide in real life are a stark contrast.

We’ve created a society that espouses the virtues of death over life, and it’s now taking its toll on people too young to see through the lie. Children need to understand that there is nothing romantic or noble about suicide, and the only way they’ll receive that message is if we deem it necessary to tell them.

Prince and Carmichael should be used as cautionary tales of what happens when life imitates art. More needs to be done to prevent future youth from emulating their actions.

Children need to be sent a different message, not that people who commit suicide are inherently bad or wrong, but that life is never so bad that it’s worth ending.

Everyone has a responsibility to put that message out. Any time someone considers suicide as an acceptable alternative to life, we have all failed.

Alan Dennis is a communication senior and may be reached at [email protected]


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