River muse


Posted 5/5/22

There are things we can’t write about in our newspaper. We can’t slander people, and that’s just. We can’t be profane; it’s a family newspaper, after all. We don’t …

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River muse



There are things we can’t write about in our newspaper. We can’t slander people, and that’s just. We can’t be profane; it’s a family newspaper, after all. We don’t report suicide; it’s a policy many news outlets have.

I learned of the policy many years ago, when a local man took his own life in a bar near Little Lake Erie and I couldn’t find anything in the paper about it, although it happened less than a mile from my home and even closer to the newspaper office. It was explained to me that it might trigger others to do the same.

I understand that theory. It was much the same with airline hijackings in the years before 9/11, when airport security was less secure. One hijacking, usually in the pursuit of a ransom, would see several repeat attempts by others. But that didn’t stop the news from reporting the hijackings. It would have been ridiculous.

But suicide is different, isn’t it? Such a personal act, and yet it affects so many. I used to think it was about privacy. But there is no privacy in a small community. Not really.

It can be a trigger for those of us who suffer from depression. Anyone who has had suicidal ideations in the past will revisit those demons again and have to beat them back again. We hope they have help to do so. But often, it’s the people closest to them who are unaware of this battle. The mental illness that can cause suicide is deeply imbedded in the psyche. It is a pain that cannot be easily explained; it is existential.

An internal conversation explores the feelings triggered by the news of someone else’s final choice. Trauma is revisited. You beat it back. Is a situation without hope? There are so many challenges we all face with money or work or family. You must have hope, above all, that things can change. The love of another, a friend, a family member, someone who you would not want to leave bereft can keep you aloft, keep you from diving into the abyss of self-loathing. But often it is the self-loathing that says they would be better off without you. It’s not true but depression is not a friend. A friend once told me it is like having the most trustworthy person you know tell you black is white and up is down, even when you see with your own eyes the opposite is true. And you believe them.

During this internal conversation, you want to reach out to a friend. But you may not. What holds you back? Sometimes it is the very fear of saying it out loud. That saying it might make it happen. Push it down; forget about it; work. It’s taboo for a reason.

Also, your friends may be grieving the loss of someone close. How dare you interrupt the sanctity of their grief with your own fears? “Who do you think you are?” That’s a phrase that is an echo from my childhood. It was meant to diminish someone who thought they were smart or pretty or just too big for their britches. It often worked. You think it yourself sometimes, even now.

The point is, we have to talk about it. Ask how people are feeling. Answer the questions. Dig out the cancer; don’t let it grow. Reach out, because the person most at risk can’t. They may refuse you and it’s not your job to save anyone; just to be there and to understand.

suicide, taboo, depression, discussion


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