I was in a conversation with a peer when I asked them, “Well, do you think that asking people if they are suicidal will make them suicidal?” that I discovered that the conversation on suicide had yet to begin. I think of it this way: if I was to stop you in the middle of our conversation and say, “Well, why don’t you give me your house?” it would not suddenly spark this idea in your head that you should now abandon your possessions and give them to me simply because I put the idea in your head. Why do we feel that this is the case when we talk about suicide?
Helen Holmes, a student at New York University and resident of Newton, candidly states that we need to use the word suicide. We, the Boston community, can’t right-click on our computers for weak word replacements such as “hurting yourself” or “hopeless.” We whisper and turn the other cheek to the topic and conversation of suicide, even after the recent deaths of two young girls, Karen Douglas and Katie Stack, in the Newton area to suicide.
In her opinion piece, Holmes includes that it is not for the lack of resources available at Newton South High School. Instead, both the Principal of Newton South and the Superintendent of Newton Public Schools failed to even use the word suicide when releasing “supportive” claims that this word could change.
Holmes quotes a senior at Newton South who said, “The letter [from the Principal] was extremely impersonal … It didn’t acknowledge who she was or what she did at all, not just her suicide but what she meant to the community”.
Not only did they fail to mention Karen’s contribution to the community and the “dimples in her smile,” they released in their statement that the cause of death was unexpected but not suspicious.
Suicide is not a disease, nor can you “catch” it by talking about it. Rather, thoughts of suicide can be exacerbated by stress, mental illness and trauma — all frequent experiences in the lives of young adults and college students.
It is not enough to stress the multitude of resources that students in distress can access on campus; we need to remove the stigma associated with suicide in the first place. We need it to be obvious, and I mean, “walk down Commonwealth Avenue and I trip over it” obvious that there are staff, faculty and students who can recognize when students are in distress. We cannot deny the reality of suicide any longer, and to strengthen our strong and passionate BU community, we need to talk about suicide.
Rosie Bauder is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences studying psychology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information regarding supportive services, go to www.afspbu.wordpress.com.