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Suicide: DADT

Sep

27

by

Why doesn’t the media report suicides?

BY TINA DUPUY

I asked a reporter at Unnamed Major Metropolitan Newspaper, why they don’t cover suicides. Why is it that traditionally in the press there’s a veil of silence draped over taking your own life? He said it’s because they don’t want to encourage the behavior. The concern is if they report on it; others will copy. There’s no such apprehension when it comes to covering homicides, but I digress. “Plus there are far more suicides than murders and we don’t cover every murder,” is how another crime reporter put it.

But then there are notable suicides which involve famous people. Enter Jamey Rodemeyer: a 14-year-old boy from Buffalo, New York, who was tormented at school for being gay. Jamey made a video for the “It Gets Better Project” professing his love and admiration for Lady Gaga. A couple of months after posting the clip, the bullying apparently became intolerable and he committed suicide. Now Lady Gaga is tweeting about how she plans to lobby the President to elevate bullying to the level of a hate crime.

jamey

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death among those 15-24 years old, compared to 11th in the general population. The teenage suicide rate is 6 per 100,000, nearly half of the general population’s at 11 per 100,000. It means that of the total number of suicides in this country, few of them are teenagers, but among deaths of teenagers, suicide is one of the leading causes.

Every day around 100 Americans kill themselves. Every day.

Jamey’s death was not a statistical anomaly, we just have a media which doesn’t report suicides if they can avoid it. But when Lady Gaga tweets about it to her 14 million followers, they can no longer avoid it. Jamey’s YouTube videos only add to the haunting nature of his story.

When you watch at Jamey’s videos and hear his promise to others that it “gets better” – one is too many. It feels like an injustice. And because Jamey’s plight hurts, we all want to DO something.

I don’t know how to eradicate bullying. I don’t know if we need more people in jail in this country, especially teenagers like those who bullied Jamey. I don’t know how to make kids nicer to each other. I don’t know how to make being a teenager less painful.

I do know that suicide needs to be taken out of the closet. The idea that if we talk about suicide – if we read about it in the paper – it’ll be so tempting more people will kill themselves is ridiculous. It reeks of superstition. Censoring stories doesn’t save lives.

Eighteen U.S. military veterans a day kill themselves. It’s a kind of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell that’s still being implemented. Over 6,500 vets a year die this way. That’s more soldiers dying at home in one year than in 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. And among those currently serving, in 2010 suicide took more lives of our military personnel than battle. The problem is so prevalent Obama is the first President in history to send letters of condolences to military families of troops who committed suicide.

Suicides for Native American males ages 10-24 are almost three times the national average. Also, Alaska has the most suicides per capita. In case you think it’s from lack of sunlight, New Mexico ranks number two. The vast majority of suicides are gun deaths.

The statistics on suicide are not done in real time; they’re not like opinion polls. The rate was steadily decreasing in the U.S. from the 1950s to 2007. But then, the world melted. Studies link higher rates of suicides to economic downturns. During the Great Depression, the rate spiked at 18.9 per 100,000 nationally (which is actually low for Alaska today). The iconic image of the stock market crash was of people jumping out of windows.

So we can guess that our national suicide rate is probably on the rise, across the board, along with the rising unemployment and a flailing economy.  We just aren’t reading the individual episodes in newspapers…unless Lady Gaga mentions them. Suicide is still stigmatized.

And since we’re highlighting an issue – here’s one of the causes: cut backs. As states are slashing their budgets, social services and mental health resources (including the VA) are disappearing. The number one cause of all suicides is mental illness and services to treat it are on the chopping block.

A falling tide sinks all ships.

A bad economy adversely affects our birth rate, health, increases in homelessness, domestic abuse, substance abuse and, of course, suicide.

It’s the economy…stupid.

  • matt

    excellent article. hope to see more of you on the beast Ms. Dupuy

  • Kristin

    My deepest thanks for a much needed article.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/JoeDixon?feature=mhee Joe Dixon

    I don’t think we should dismiss the idea that reporting on suicides causes a spike in suicides. It’s not at all like murder. There is no Werther Effect when it comes to homicide but it does exist when we’re talking about people taking their own lives. Our monkey brains really do have some sort of copycat self-destruction switch.

    And let’s face it, taking suicide out of the closet would not change the coverage that much since the only none famous people who’s deaths would generate notice would be that of upper class white folk. That is to say, the people our media gate keepers most resemble. So you’ll see a headline about the white first year lawyer at Skadden Arps but not a mention of the black mother in Bed-Stuy who worked at McDonald’s. Christ, just look at how they cover missing people AKA Missing White Woman Syndrome. Do we really need that sort of lazy reporting when it comes to suicides? I hope no one thinks the press won’t cover it that way because unlike the situation for gay youth, news reporting will not get better.

  • admin

    I just like how The BEAST commenting community has co-opted the moniker Chris Riordan, for any troll-like comment they need to make that is totally retarded. Murphy approves. Murphy approves in the third-person.

  • Anthony

    And now I’ll do my best to completely sully what everyone surely considers to be a solemn moment for reflection.

    First of all, what business does a 14 year old child have posting a video telling homosexuals in the U.S. who may be afraid of coming out that “it gets better!?” Not only is he in absolutely the WORST stage of his American life to make such an assertion, he also hasn’t had enough experience to know what the fuck “it” is or how “it” might eventually “get better!” This was a dumb thing to do. Obviously he didn’t know any better, but jesus fucking christ. The irony is, well you know.

    So, this kid posts a video that can be viewed by, um, the ENTIRE WORLD. Then he’s what? Surprised when he catches shit for it!? And the bullying was so intense he simply had to kill himself!? What in the holy fuck did this bullying entail? Was he physically abused? Did he have zero friends? I really wonder about this shit. It’s these details that would help me actually seriously weigh in on this. Was this kid was just a weakling who was probably going to be naturally selectively culled at some point anyway? Or, was he a true victim of actions so heinous he was literally driven to suicide? Probably a bit of both, with some good old fashioned proximal abandonment from his parents dashed in. Seriously, where the fuck were they? Were they completely helpless? Or utterly clueless?

    I know, I know. I’m an asshole. Look, I concede to every point the author makes. Personally, I think we’re several generations deep in sociopaths in this country, and the teen years seem to be when they begin to really hone their skills. There is a real, palpable sort of a strain of barbarism in the United States entailing dominance, sexism, racism, homophobia, and general sadism- and I hate it. And yes, our monetary and economic structures and situations play directly into this fact- and I hate it. And of course in my heart of hearts I also hate that this kid killed himself. The really sad thing is that when someone so young does this, they have no conception of what they are giving up. They actually think that their lives are irredeemable and will remain miserable forever. George Carlin was so spot-on when he spoke about the depravity of American culture. The young, arrogant little cunts who bullied this kid are the symptom of that depravity. They are our future stockbrokers, lawyers, police and politicians.

    But frankly, I have trouble feeling a great deal of sympathy for anyone that kills themselves- unless they have a damn good reason of which I am aware. Damn good reasons include: terminally ill and in extreme pain, caught in a concentration camp, or just raped a baby. Not a damn good reason: they called me a fag. Many, many, many people suffer alot more than this working class white gay kid did, and they soldier on. Just saying.

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