Death is a tricky subject. We often don’t know what to do with the fact that we don’t live forever. A question that arises when talking about death, is what happens when someone takes it upon themselves to bring on their own death? Suicide is often misrepresented and portrayed erroneously in the media, causing our society to have a skewed idea on the matter. As personal as the subject is, we must talk about what suicide is and how it affects people lives.
Each year 34,598 people die from suicide, roughly 94 completed suicides a day (Emory University). This number does not take into account the attempted suicides. So what is it about the media that alludes to suicide as being a simple, non-consequential act?
1. Famous People and Suicide
From Kurt Cobain to Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston, the media has covered suicide as a trivial act, something that passes with the next big news story or headline. It is tempting to see suicide as something that only the rich and famous can afford. Yet the staggering number of deaths per year is nothing glamorous.
2. Miseducation of Mental Health
Schizophrenia and bipolar disorders are two of the top reasons that lead people towards suicide. This common thread goes to show how mental illness is at the root of the epidemic. Because of the lack of information circulating on mental health issues, the fact that people are suffering from mental illness often goes unsaid. The lack of conversation is also a great reason why the media has nothing more to go on than celebrity suicides. Behind their suicide was an impending mental illness that led to their ending of their life.
Kill yourself, kill myself, I just want to die. These are statements that are used everyday and affect how we see and talk of suicide. Though meant to be a joke, or used in a jokingly manner, this is a sensitive topic that is not taken seriously.
Having personal experience with suicide, I am sensitive to the idea, and anything relating to suicide used as a joke is no longer funny to me. The topic is sensitive, and affects the lives of many, that only those who attempted, but those around them who had to witness the crippling of a being, so much so that it led to them wanting to hurt themselves.
We don’t speak of suicide or the pain inflicted that comes after an attempt or a death. This leads to a miscommunication of the issue, making the topic taboo and shameful. There is nothing to be ashamed about regarding thoughts of suicide. The better informed a person is, the less chance there is of a person attempting suicide or thinking of it.
5. Portrayal of Tortured Souls
We have set a narrative of having people suffering as a luxury. In reality, we all suffer from one or many grievances that we maybe can’t necessarily explain. Portraying those who suffer from mental illness, like depression or schizophrenia, as tortured souls, or people whose pain is somehow different from everyone else’s, will just inhibit the person more.
From the media, we get a lot of romanticizing suffering, as if it somehow a privilege to suffer. It is said that 3.7 percent of the American population has thought of suicide. This large number, approximately 8.3 million people, is a combination of depressive, schizophrenic, or bipolar people who experience pain and anxiety just like everyone else. Their diagnosis prevents them from living their normal life, yet their problems are lived and experienced just like everyone else’s.
6. Obsession with the Afterlife
Our obsession with the afterlife is one that has haunted man-kind since the beginning of reason. Just like we came onto this earth, we must leave it, and that has left unanswered many questions of many people who come to philosophically analyze the topic. Do we really need to know what is on the other side? If there is anything? And if we ever do find an answer to this question, will it be just as appealing if not more than this side, and will we then suffer the consequences of such discovery like in the movie?
7. Glorification of Methods
We’ve all seen The Heathers. And even if not, there has been a movie, play, song, TV show, that has exemplified a suicide attempt or a completed suicide. Whether it is the cutting of the veins, the bottle of pills, or any other method, we have come across something or other in the media that has explicitly explained how to kill oneself. Though we can not control or sensor everything in the media, the way suicide is sometimes glorified and “made simple” affects the number of people each year to attempt to take their life.
8. 13 Reason Why
This show, I hit very close to home. This show is a prime example of romanticizing a horrible experience and turning it into a blockbuster TV show. The show dramatized a topic that needs to be taken seriously.
9. Miseducated About Depression
People often disregard depression as a psychiatric illness, let alone a medical illness. Not being knowledgeable of depressive symptoms can be harmful to those near you. Characters with depression are portrayed negatively. Often these characters express symptoms by attempting suicide, yet no one explains the medical aspect of depression, poorly explaining the reasons behind depression.
10. Lack of Organizations in Place to Help
Though the United States has many programs, they are not nearly enough to fully address the problem of suicide, depression, and other mental health issues. Places needed to spread awareness.