Our Souls Aren’t Disposable
The purpose of this essay isn’t to shock, mortify or horrify. I won’t say that it is quite the opposite, because there is the chance that it will do all of the above. The true purpose, is to draw attention to a problem (read: epidemic) that, at least where I’m from isn’t addressed by the government on the scale it should be. As for the media, well, the media is only interested in it when it happens in America. Which, although opens the discussion a small amount, means it is detached from home and therefore as a news story, doesn’t carry the weight it needs to. Unfortunately, I can’t speak for other countries. I only know what I’ve read, and based on that it seems the situation is dire regardless of the society.
Teen suicide, self harm and, depression are perhaps three of the things that society finds most difficult to talk about. It’s an issue that has arguably been proliferated by the exponential growth in social media and the use of cell phones at an earlier age. We’ve all heard the stories before, the reasoning backed up by research and the way computers and social media are damaging children and destroying our lives. So I’ll save you the speech. Because there is another side, a positive side, to the growth of social media. One that largely goes unnoticed and certainly under appreciated is the support network that has grown from the innovation, creativity and intelligence of teenagers across the globe.
Countless anti-bullying and anti-suicide videos are hosted on Youtube and are more inspiring and emotional than any government initiatives to date (here are two examples ‘Dear You’ & ‘My Suicide Story’). Some stories including that of Olivia Penpraze have travelled across the world and opened up conversation. While the importance of the efforts of these teenagers is not something to be over looked (in fact, it certainly should be revered) continuing the discussion is one of the hardest parts. Images and stories act like shock therapy but the next step is to teach people how to respond once the shock wears off. Shocking people into action and out of ignorance instead of shocking people into greater immobility is the balancing act. And here, the support groups of methods developed by those same teenagers needs to be maintained by outside help.
Support for those helping does exist, including the age old line ‘if you know somebody who needs help, tell someone’ unfortunately, in my experience, these advertisements are seen only by insomniacs. Stories of teen suicide are kept well away from spin and comfortable news headlines so these systems (such as helplines) are not supported or advertised. To compound the issue further suicide and self harm aren’t ‘sexy’ even by journalist standards.
The internet has allowed unconventional anti-suicide and anti-self harm campaigns an important voice, that is backed by networks of supporters. However, (and yes, there are many battles to be fought before this becomes a fairytale) there seems to be a network of news agencies and governments that are fighting against the proliferation of these support groups. I am aware that this sounds conspiracy-esque, but have you noticed some of the best support groups (such as TWLOHA) don’t receive government funding? Or that all the election issues that touch on the subject have been played down or ignored? Instead, one of the biggest talking points in America is contraception…
Stigma, however is a formidable foe and is perhaps one of the biggest obstacles faced by those trying to help, and those that need help. This is in part caused by the issue of people not knowing how to respond to the information that their friend or family member is self harming or suicidal (often both). And of course the stigma its self isn’t only attached to a friend or parent who is close to ‘one of them’ but is more difficult to bare for the person that is ‘one of them.’ Naturally, stigma proliferates fear and fear, is one of the most debilitating symptoms of any scenarios known to humanity.
Being afraid of how the family will react to suicidal tendencies or self harm is a great barrier to stepping forward and getting help. Of course, the scariest thing about that move, is whether or not the receiver of said news will be able to the cope with the news. Other than love, patience and understanding, there isn’t, unfortunately, a set of rules or guidelines I can offer as to how to deal with this situation. I can only tell you to educate yourself and seek advice. What I do know, however, is that while speaking to an adult is sold as a good move (which I’m not refuting) this adult, needs to be nonjudgmental and accept that the scale and magnitude of a problem is relative to each person experiencing it.
Each and everyone of us can learn from all the beautiful people that have shared their stories or have become involved, through other means, with the movement. And phenomenally, even facing the obstacles it must over come, it’s a campaign that continues to grow. More teenagers are actively reaching out on social media to help strangers and offer all the love they can. Unfortunately, social media is does exhibit the ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ personality trait and for every person that is there to help, there are people that exist in order to attempt to undo their work. This includes the suicide encouragers and the ‘haters’ malicious individuals that exist for naught more than destroying (quite literally) the lives of others.
Against monumental odds the movement exists and has the ability to restore faith in humanity. The fact that it doesn’t receive the media coverage or government support that it actually deserves, acts as a sickening reminder of how powerful a stigma can be. And just how difficult this issue is to face and how un ’sexy’ it is as news headline. As it stands the reasonings ‘that’s the way the world is’ and ‘the media are the ones to blame’ are running out of ground. Passing blame is immensely easy, regardless of whether it’s from Democrats to Republicans, Socialists to Capitalists, Parents to Children, Children to Parents, and the social collective to the Media. It changes nothing, and it will always change nothing.
While soldiers fight wars with guns against imaginary enemies. The damaged, the confused, the hurting and the broken are taking up a battle with their hearts on their sleeves. No longer focused on blaming those around them, they are fighting a type of war that is much closer to home. No matter where you reside in the world, the soldiers of love and understanding are being beaten back by creeds of people who deny their importance and deny their mission. Denials that led to self harm, suicidal tendencies, and, a growing pressure to be something that is defined as “having all required or desirable elements, qualities or characteristics”, Perfection. A term that is terrifically vague, yet horrendously soul destroying.
I invite you to discuss this (or any similar issues) however it’s important I point out (while I do believe in freedom of speech and expression) all suicide encouragement will be deleted.