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Suicide In America

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Chris

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After the apparent suicide of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain I've seen several posts on social media apparently shaming others for feeling bad while "ignoring" the average 22 vets that commit suicide everyday. 

You know why no one says anything about those 22 vets? Because we didn't know. We don't hear about it because of the stigma society attaches to suicide. Like a pregnant unwed mother in the 40's, it's avoided, not talked about like some shameful thing. Put away so we can pretend things are neat and tidy in our little world. We like that, it's easier. 

Hell, what about the other people, the non-celebrity, non-veteran suicides? According to statistics from 2016, 120 people commit suicide A DAY. And reports indicate that the number has increased since. Why aren't the other 100+ people included in that meme?

Why need to prioritize one group of people over another?

It's perfectly okay to feel bad when ANYONE commits suicide, regardless of their station in life. EVERY death by suicide is sad. I didn't personally know Bourdain, Robin Williams, or anyone who was just found this morning. For anyone who let's that darkness overtake them, we can still feel sympathy for them; the 14 year old whose been bullied, the soldier fighting demons of war, or some rich guy on tv. 

Like many Americans, I too have felt the loss of someone I know after they decided to take their own life. Additionally, because of my former profession I've seen the aftermath first hand. It's not easy to understand, it's not easy to see, but it can't be ignored. It needs to be addressed, and it's not something that you can just plug into a meme on social media and move on.

Perhaps Bourdain's and other celebrity suicide deaths can bring about discussion on the topic of suicide and mental health in America. Shed that stigma and make people more aware, more open to talk about it today. And maybe, just maybe, lead to a few less self inflicted deaths tomorow. 

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I think you’re right….the average person doesn’t care any less about non-celebrities or non-veterans, they just don’t have the opportunity to express their feelings for something that’s not brought to their attention. Since cause of death is protected, it’s only revealed when/if family chooses. So, unless it’s a public figure, cause of death is rarely announced – and in the case of suicide, often purposely concealed.

Why? Hundreds of reasons. Reluctance to spoil their loved one’s memory in the minds of others? Embarrassment that their loved one was “defective” somehow? Guilt that they weren’t able to prevent it?

 

I really think that last one is probably the most common. And I don’t really know how change that stigma.

 

The more these celebrity struggles make the news, the more dialogue there is about what measures everyone can (and) should take….what signs to take note of and when to intervene. That dialogue is undoubtedly helpful in many ways…but also has some counter-productive potential.

First, there’s the noted uptick in overall suicide after these stories hit the news. That’s certainly understandable. From the perspective of a suicidal person, if someone all the money and success of these celebrities didn’t overcome the helplessness, what hope do they have?

Also, these stories are usually accompanied by PSAs for others to “see something, do something”. This possibly reinforces to the survivors things they may have overlooked (and coulda woulda shoulda spotted)……contributing to the guilt. “We were inundated by every news source telling us what signs to watch for, and we still failed them”. And even more reluctant to advertise their loss.

I have no clue how media and social attitude can be turned around to change that perception.

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One person at a time maybe? I don't know, beyond that. 

Look at that video you shared on Facebook. If that guy, that message got out to more people, who knows?  It's a powerful message, and it's drowned out by all the other BS our society indulges in. 

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