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]


  • Damn straight! We need to condemn suicide in the strongest possible terms. Phoebe Prince should have got a gun, something easy to handle like a mini-14 with a couple of extra 30 round mags, and gone on a shooting holiday at lunch time. If she wanted to die anyway she could have at least let the cops do it for her and taken out the bullies at the same time. Huah!

    (does this really need a sarcasm tag?)

    • I don’t think condemning suicide is going to stop people and I don’t think society glorifies suicide. People that commit suicide are in such a dark place that they can’t see any brighter future. They are deeply depressed and life to them is not worth living. Feeling compassion for people that do this and for their families is not glorifying suicide. I’m sure the prolonged bullying was a big factor in why these two young people did what they did. Imagine the effect on their self esteem and at that young age you are so vulnerable to what people think of you. It’s a complex issue.

  • Suicide glorified? I think that our national response to the spate of suicides is shock, horror, and incredulity made particularly poignant by an effortless cruelty by peers and the tolerance of it by authorities.

    Rather than aggrandizing their final act, people are disgusted by circumstances that would impel a child to suicide. This disgust is warranted if Phoebe was mocked even after her death, (virtually and on school grounds) as reported.

    It is deeply disturbing that we are witnessing young people inflicting this violence upon themselves and their loved ones. The pain that Phoebe, or Carl, or Megan, Jon, or Jaheem had endured lasted only as long as they could personally withstand. And that is your real point: Why are these young people seeing suicide as the answer? You contend that it is a culturally glorified mode of death expression, made viable by cultural icons. Well, I believe that no one in their right mind commits suicide; it is giving up. Yes, for these young people, the reasons for their final act does lie beyond “taunting.”

  • This is by far the worst article I’ve ever read. First off get your facts straight, Prince killed herself BECAUSE she was bullied to no end, if you read an actual NEWS article you’d know this. Everyone in the media is rushing to blame the school officials and students BECAUSE the students were indeed the ones to bully her to the point of resorting to suicide and the school officials did nothing to curtail the bullying even though it happened on school grounds and during school hours. Hmm, it doesn’t take that much common sense to put two and two together to figure out whose to blame here.

    Secondly where do you get off publishing an article like this? It’s simply in bad taste especially when you try to condescend to the readers and say someone committed suicide for an “alleged” reason for the sake of supporting your argument when in FACT Prince indeed committed suicide because of non-stop bullying, not because society supposedly makes it “appear glamorous” to the public as you so boldly try to claim. How dare you drag a dead person’s name through the dirt like that just to be able to meet an article quota.

    I demand this article be retracted and if the author is an employee of The Daily Cougar be fired for terrible outlandish journalism. If not I demand that whoever ok’d this article to be published (without actually reading this piece of trash) to be fired for a gross case of being irresponsible and negligent in regards to what is being published.

  • @Zed
    Ahem… Are you familiar with the First Amendment, sir?
    Should opinions that you personally disagree with be silenced?
    This is an opinion piece, and the writer is merely stating his opinion… which, as far as I can tell, is a valid one.
    Suicide is glorified in our society, and violence is too.
    Here’s a video for you to watch (if you can stomach someone disagreeing with you):
    I suggest you watch part two, too.
    I may be conflating issues, but you’ve called for the firing of a paper’s employees… for voicing an opinion that you disagree with.
    I suggest you take your own advice: put two and two together and realize that you’re narrow minded.

  • ^It’s nothing about being narrow minded, its a matter that they manipulated facts in bad taste just to make their argument seem valid. The fact remains the article claims Prince “allegedly” killed herself because society “makes it cool” rather than because she was tormented by bullies (which is the ACTUAL reason why she killed herself.) It’s not an opinion when what you’re trying to pass as an opinion is using false information. It’s like someone saying in their opinion the sky is green. Just because its their opinion doesn’t mean its fact.

    In this case its their opinion is that Prince killed herself because society glorifies people who kill themselves when its quite obvious that is not the case especially given the writing on the wall shows the real reason why (that she killed herself from not being able to handle the bullying, sure it wasn’t the solution to her problems but the fact remains she obviously didn’t do it just because Hollywood says its cool. If you honestly believe that then you’re an idiot.)

    In the end its sickening to see a dead person’s name dragged through the dirt like this just for the purpose of some cliche afternoon school special moral guilt trip. Freedom of the press or not its simply in bad taste especially when the facts were ignored and manipulated. You obviously wouldn’t defend this article if it were worse and said Prince got what she had coming to her in killing herself, I mean after all its just another opinion right?

  • In short: If you honestly think Prince offed herself because society makes it glamorous then you are an idiot, pure and simple.

  • “If you honestly believe that then you’re an idiot.”

    This was the most telling sentence you wrote. Dress it up however you want, you are getting mad and demanding firings because someone has an opinion. An opinion you deem idiotic. An opinion you don’t even seem to actually understand.

    People’s motives for doing things aren’t black and white. We are driven subconsciously by things we don’t realize are driving us. You say that the reason the girl committed suicide was because she was bullied. But there’s more too it than that. Dang near every kid that’s ever been to school has been bullied at some point. Most don’t resort to suicide. The author of the article is suggesting that maybe the fact that our society is accepting of suicide makes it seem like a more legitimate option to kids. Of course, they’re not consciously thinking, “I’m going to kill myself, like so-and-so from Twilight did.” But living in a society which implicitly endorses suicide is bound to have effects. I don’t see how that’s even a controversial stance to take.

    I suggest you read Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point”, specifically the parts about the suicide boom in Micronesia. Kids tend to follow the crowd. Even if that crowd is killing itself.

  • ^It’s pretty clear though that in Prince’s case she wasn’t exposed to what everyone would consider as everyday bullying: it was extremely persistent, unrelenting, and almost always was very intense. People seem to only commit suicide outside of mental illness because they feel thats the only option they have left to resort to. You should give people some credit, in most cases today they do think things through very thoroughly before attempting the deed. And all things considered in Prince’s case with all the stuff she was being put through it was only a matter of time before she cracked.

    The fact of the matter is though that she reached out to the faculty and they did nothing to stop the bullying even though they knew it was happening before she even tried to get them to intervene. Its pretty clear she most likely felt that her only course of action left in that situation to escape the pain would be suicide. I mean she tried reaching out to people and no one would help her, it would be pretty hard for any teen not to see any positive outcome for themselves if they were in her position. As I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: its pretty clear her reasons for suicide were not based how society views it, it was a means most likely in her reasoning to escape torment she felt wouldn’t end and no one would help defend her from.

    Sure its all mainly assumption at best but with the evidence presented its fairly clear how the pieces of this puzzle fit together. All that aside this article is just terrible journalism as it ignored the actual facts that have been presented and manipulated them to justify a fairly meager argument at best. Once again this article hardly warrants an opinion when it ignores the facts in favor of false information.

  • Whenever there a teenager in America commits an act of violence towards his fellow classmates or himself, everybody comes up with their reasons. It’s the movies, it’s the music, it’s the video games, it’s the parents, it’s the bullies, it’s the (lack of) gun control, etc. Truth is, school shootings and teen suicides probably stem from a number of different issues that are all playing out on a given troubled individual. The Columbine shooters didn’t just watch The Matrix one day and decide to shoot up the school. And I seriously doubt that this girl’s suicide can be chalked up to one factor – bullying – and only one factor. I doubt that she even knows all of the psychological factors that led to her deciding to end her life, and I know that you don’t. So what do we do as a nation when something like this happens? I think we all should ask ourselves, what can I do to prevent this from happening again?

    If you’re a parent, that means paying attention to the mental health of your children. It means not exposing them to violent movies and video games until they’re emotionally mature enough to handle them. It means making sure you keep firearms out of your children’s reach.

    If you’re a school administrator, it means taking a harder line on bullying.

    And as a nation, maybe it means not glamorizing suicide. You can say that what the media reports doesn’t have any effect, but studies suggest otherwise. As I said, read Chapter 7 of “The Tipping Point”. Read up on the work of David Phillips from UC San Diego. When Marilyn Monroe committed suicide, there was a temporary 12% jump nationwide in suicides. His studies show that well-publicized suicides cause temporary jumps in suicide rates across the area which the original suicide was reported. Just like what happened in Micronesia in Malcolm Gladwell’s example. People follow the crowd, even if it’s not a conscious decision.

  • No I’m pretty certain it was only due to the bullying, someone does not take their own life out of the blue for no reason. As I said give people some credit nowadays, they usually think things out now much more thoroughly rather than acting out rashly in these situations. If she killed herself then it must have really been that bad (and the reports would support this hypothesis given that her tormentors still had the gall to mock her after her death.) Odds are strong she didn’t have any psychological problems that inhibited her judgment besides being under the stress the bullying brought on and being a teen unable to cope with the situation properly. You can’t ignore the FACTS and you can’t cover them up either. She killed herself because she was bullied non-stop and no one would do anything to stop it or help her, not because our society glorifies it. Once again if you really think she stopped to think about that and then killed herself because of that over the fact she was being bullied so vehemently and relentlessly then you are an idiot for ignoring the evidence that has been presented in this case.

    Look into any case involving such acts of torment that reduce the tormented into such states of helplessness and you’ll see they almost always end: 1) in the suicide of the tormented because they are pushed into making such drastic decisions, 2) if not they fall into a case of stockholm syndrome and begin to like their tormentors or 3) they just simply go nuts and become mentally and emotionally broken.

  • I agree with the article, though i think it's a subject that deserves a much longer and more thought out article than this, with more examples or situations concerning. And i don't think it's unreasonable to think that Prince may have thought, "maybe if I do this, someone will actual care the next time someone is picked on." Because we do often see suicide as a way to say, 'this is serious, do something about it.' And then they're the hero who brought about more severe prevention of bullying. This is strictly my opinion and how i see it.

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