Update: Sadly, due to time constraints and one very sick babysitter (I know you would have done it anyway, Kitten, but you were green), I had to cancel on the filming of Insight last night. Altogether now- Awwwwww. Sorry to dissapoint….
My Aussie readers will be able to catch me on TV this Tuesday night- SBS, 7:30pm, on Insight. They are having a debate on suicide- the reporting of suicide in the media, the education and resources that are offered. (Yep- part of me, terrified. Other part of me says “Meh, how hard can it be,after this…?”)
Obviously, we know what my spin is going to be. Speak. Talk, and talk, and talk, until the silence evaporates and the shame starts to go away.
For those of you not in the know, the law in Australia prevents suicide from being reported in the media. That was one argument thrown at me for why I should not be writing so graphically about what happened with Tony.
A year or so again, there was a situation where a man committed suicide by throwing himself off the top floor of one of Sydney’s largest, busiest shopping centres. It was reported in the media as a malfunction with the escalator system, hence the closure of the centre. An American tourist leaked footage he had taken with his mobile phone onto YouTube, claiming some kind of conspiracy theory. No conspiracy theory, just the law.
I’m guessing the main reason behind this is a fear of copycat suicides, a phenomena that does exist and has been recorded. But, at that article shows, it’s not so much the fact that suicide is reported. It’s the way it’s done.
Conventional media likes to break things up into thirty seconds stories and quick sound bites. There generally isn’t time to show the devastation that suicide leaves behind,the graphic ugliness of it… it’s glossed over, reported, forgotten about.
I struggled with that, a little bit, when I first wrote that Ugly post, months ago now. But really, when we look at it- there was nothing nice about that post. There was nothing nice about the journey Tony took towards death, the four days he spent in intensive care. I don’t worry about people copying what my husband did. Because this is real, every bit of it. This blog shows the long, long trail that a suicide drags behind it. It doesn’t end with you.
Since Tony’s death, I’ve been inundated with emails and comments from people who have lost loved ones to suicide. The silence around it is deafening, and it’s only when you break that sound barrier that you start to hear how loud the problem is.
Two good friends of mine have lost parents to suicide. I never knew that, until Tony died. I knew they’d lost parents young, but I’d never heard how they’d died. If it had been cancer that had taken them, would it have been mentioned…? Quite probably. Someone’s mum dies of cancer, and we all wear pink and march in the sunshine to raise money for a cure.
Someone’s mum dies of suicide, and we speak of it in whispers. And parts of us thinks, how terrible she was to leave her children so young.
And there in, I think, lies part of the problem, another reason why we need to talk, to let the words rush out until this glass bubble bursts. I’ve heard how selfish Tony was, so many times. And God knows, I think that, too, and I’ve said it plenty. I can’t help with it, the emotional investment being what it is.
But, really, suicide is no more selfish that getting cancer or MS or freaking pneumonia is selfish. This is an illness. Let’s call it soul cancer.
And let’s speak about it, to remove the stigma. So maybe people will ask for help before it gets to the point where they are psychotic, or suicidal.
Men. Especially men. I’ve raved on about that before. Women, we talk in emotions and feeling and colours. Men speak gruffly in terms of ‘She’ll be right’, of honour, of doing the right thing even when it’s so, so wrong.
I worry sometimes about how graphic my description of Tony’s suicide is. Then I remind myself that this is the InterWebs. Type suicide into the front page of Google and you’ll come up with worst things that this. Type in ‘how to kill yourself’ and the information is there, in shocking detail, photos and all.
While this blog isn’t something I would want my kids reading at the ages of twelve or thirteen, I don’t worry too much about kids reading my blog, about putting this information out there. To start with, I don’t think “Random Ramblings of a Stay At Home Mum” is something that would appeal to a lot of kids.
And let’s be honest- there’s not a lot on the Net I would want my twelve or thirteen year old to see. Compared to what’s out there, this is tame.
Do you remember your concept of suicide, as a teenager…? I do. It was so bloody romantic. Because of this culture we have of not talking about suicide, except in cold whispers and not around the children, please; the only suicide I’d ever read about was Romeo and Juliet. What a grand freaking idea. We won’t discuss suicide with teenagers at all, but we will have them study the most romanticized fictional suicide there is.
So maybe, teenagers would benefit from about it too. Let’s tell the truth. There is nothing romantic about suicide. It’s ugly. Show them pictures of what you’ll really look like when someone finds you. tell them about the week you may spend semi conscious in the ICU, unable to tell your loved ones you’re sorry before you die.
Hell, make them all read this. Suicide, it’s not always an end to a problem. Sometimes it’s the beginning of a much bigger one.
And let’s tell them, tell everyone, about how quickly suicide can happen. About how you shouldn’t bluff, because you just may hit a nerve you never know you had.
About how a psychosis can skew your perspective of reality, your risk perception. About how, if you’re feeling that stressed and out of it, that depressed and anxious, there is no shame in asking for help.
Suicide contagion is real. A catch 22, hey? It is contagious. If we talk about it, it can spread.
But if we don’t talk about it, more people die. And it just spreads faster, and more silently.
Surely the spread of it is faster, more intense, by touch than by sound?
So… I guess that’s what I’ll be arguing tomorrow night. Hopefully not from an over emotional perspective.
Let’s remove the silence. But do it in a way that removes the romance as well.
Thousands of people die in this country from suicide every year. It’s the end result of an illness, but the stigma and shame behind it are terrifying.
Remove the romance. Remove the shame. Remove the stigma.