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Mon, Nov. 8th, 2010, 06:22 pm
Long time no post.

Hi all.

A lot has happened in my life since the last time i posted. One of the strangest, hardest-to-comprehend things is that someone I know comitted suicide.

We weren't especially close, but we did work together, and that breeds a certain kind of closeness that you might not really understand is there until something happens. Various thoughts spring up after a thing like this. The first was, no joke, "I had no idea he felt this way - i should make an effort to talk to him about it next time i see him."

Which perhaps speaks a bit towards my inability to comprehend.

I have this hard-to-shake feeling that he has sort-of vanished, and I'm talking about it so frankly here because I don't have any of his mutual friends on my flist, and so I feel i can be frank about my personal feelings without treading on anybody elses.

He jumped from a well-known building where i work and study. Apparently, this happens often at this particular building (a friend that a paramedic spoke with said about a dozen people per year do this), but if you worked or studied here, you would never know it. It's not reported in any way, and it's not encouraged that one speak about it. He has a lot of very good friends, and a small memorial appeared to him shortly afterwards; the university administration quickly suggested that it be removed, as it makes it just "a bit too obvious" where and how it happened (and that it happened at all).

The theory is that reporting on suicide causes a rise in other suicides immediately afterward, i.e. that other people who are in that headspace will more quickly move from thinking about it to doing it. And there may be some merit in this perspective - I haven't seen or examined the data.

But it's also an "excluded middle" sort of perspective. By which i mean that the choices are not between "reporting" and "not reporting"; there are a range of possibilities inbetween these. Instead of quickly offering counselling to those affected and covering it up as far as possible for everybody else, perhaps it could be discussed in an open and meaningful manner? What effect would that have on other people who might already be feeling this way, or might head down that path at some other date?

(Perhaps the media is not capable of something like this; journalists flit from topic to topic, generally presenting a disconnected, insane, sociopath's view of the world. People die in large numbers in foreign countries on page 10, and their deaths have no causes, and no effects - they're just "incidents", with no history and no consequence. And when understanding is brought into it, it's always distorted for the benefit of somebody, somewhere, who has money. This is the context in which we beleive that "reporting on" a topic like suicide only increases the chance of somebody else doing the same - because this is what "reporting on" means, in our society: Hollow, dry, ahistorical, meaningless, contextless, useless to everyone who reads it.)

But there are student newspapers, there are unions and organisations beyond the media who can discuss it - who have an interest in discussing this sort of thing, because they are composed of people living their daily lives, not subject to editorial oversight. Maybe something could be made of that. I don't know.

All i'm trying to say is that this is a real problem, that really exists in the world. Denying it makes it seem so abstract and inconsequential, but the consequences are enormous. It's hard to reconcile when the person has simply vanished. I can't fit it in. In my head, he's still alive. Cognitive dissonance.

It probably doesn't help me that I was slightly-outside his real circle of friends, being a co-worker. It certainly doesn't help that his facebook profile vanished as well - and I mean, literally. I mean, i went back to look at a friendly comment he had made on one of my status updates in the last few months, and it wasn't there. The little memorial isn't entirely gone; somebody taped a banksia to the wall, and i find myself stopping everytime i go past the spot.

So, that's that.

Tue, Nov. 9th, 2010 05:42 am (UTC)

Hello :-)

Reading this reminded me how much I have missed your thoughtful and thought-provoking posts.

I'm sorry about your friend - I've never had to deal with anything like this directly, but suicide, youth suicide in particular, always breaks my heart.

I too have heard of this idea that just talking about it can result in a rise in suicides afterwards. I wonder evidence there is to support this - or if it something we generally accept because it is such an unsettling topic to talk about. But, as you say, surely there can be some medium to discuss this in?

Thu, Nov. 11th, 2010 11:19 pm (UTC)

Yes, i think there is a degree of "tabooness" as well. I've found that the counseling offered by the uni doesn't appeal to me, and i think it's because you're in a room with a stranger in a therapy-like situation - which i've found helpful in the past, for depression, but it doesn't feel appropriate here. This sort of thing feels like it should have more to do with community than therapy. We were having a talk about this at work yesterday; happily, it's a fairly friendly and tight-knit group of people that i work with.

Fri, Nov. 12th, 2010 04:17 am (UTC)

I've noticed you've been gone from here for a little while and was hoping you would post again soon. I was very happy to see your name in my friends page, just very unfortunate that you had this happen in your life.

Death is one of those things that I can't deal with very well. I had a co-worker die a while ago, I had been friends with her older sister for years but lost contact a couple of years prior. It is so crazy to comprehend how somebody can be there one second and then just vanish. Especially in the case of suicide.

Just remember that there was most likely nothing you could have done or said any different to change the outcome of what happened. Instead focus your energy on really listening to friends and family so you can catch any signs of them falling on the same path, reconnect with friends who have just drifted and reach out and make yourself open to new friends because there may be somebody out there who really needs one where you could make a difference.

I've heard the concept of suicide being contagious before as well, but like you I have not looked into it before (nor even thought to) so I'm not sure if any studies have been done or if it is just one of those things people say because they don't want to deal with the fact and just want to remove it as far as possible from their minds.

I hope you find your own way to deal with the loss. I will always listen when you need to speak about it.

Wed, Dec. 22nd, 2010 10:14 pm (UTC)

Thank-you so much Rena, i really appreciate your words.

Wed, Dec. 22nd, 2010 10:12 pm (UTC)

I wish you could "like" livejournal comments the way you can facebook comments. Dude, this is exactly what i need, al the time, ever.