This edition of "Survivor Showcase" begins with a story from a journalism class at Wenatchee (Washington) High School. Reacting to an article in the town's newspaper titled "Suicide Coalition Shows Us How to Solve a Crisis," Brenna Visser, opinion editor for the school newspaper -- whose 21-year-old brother died by suicide last summer -- writes:
This obviously caught my attention, mostly for the word "solve." Solve, as if the complexity of someone's pain were to be decoded like a Rubik's Cube ... Every case is individual: Why my brother died, and why Mr. Riggs' son has died, and every other suicide, has its own story. And for everyone who has felt that loss knows that this crisis is far from "solved"...Brenna's faculty advisor, Dave Riggs, a survivor of his son's suicide, also weighs in -- then the two of them write:
We are treating suicide as the problem when it is the unbearable pain that a person experiences that is need of a solution. We can't "solve" a problem until we realize what the real problem is, and that is the complex way pain manifests within someone. There may not be a universal answer, but universal acknowledgement, kindness and respect for those who are struggling is imperative. Until we start dealing with the deeper issues, like mental illness, stress, etc., then there will be no improvement.
Suicide is an inexplicable act that forces survivors to seek an explanation. For someone as gifted and lucky as Anthony, the initial impulse is to think the reason must be equal to his violence, to the pain he caused. In the two years since he died, however, no terrible secret or disgrace has surfaced. Anthony's story is subtler and more frightening and it doesn't feel like an answer.Jana Riess lost her mother to cancer in January and, in a recent post at her Flunking Sainthood blog, she names satirist Stephen Colbert among those who have served as a "grief therapist" to her during her journey. She quotes Colbert (whose father and two brothers died in a plane crash when he was 10 years old):
"Grief comes to you. You know what I mean? I've always liked that phrase 'He was visited by grief,' because that's really what it is. Grief is its own thing. It's not like it's in me and I'm going to deal with it. It's a thing, and you have to be okay with its presence. If you try to ignore it, it will be like a wolf at your door.An op-ed piece on CNN gives voice to Dorothy Paugh, whose 25-year-old son killed himself with a gun a year ago -- and whose father shot himself in 1963 at age 53. She writes that her determination to "spare other parents [a] horrific experience" led her to study "much of the research related to suicide and firearms":
It's a myth that without a gun handy, people bent on killing themselves will just find another way. For many, the suicidal crisis is temporary, and 90 percent of those who survive an attempt do not go on to die by suicide. Any obstacle or delay can break the self-destructive trance ... Protecting your family from this risk means getting rid of or locking up your guns.A related story recounts how Trivium band member Matt Heafy reacted to reading the CNN interview, which features a picture of Dorothy Paugh's son wearing a Trivium T-shirt. Heafy wrote a message to his fans that includes this admonition:
If it isn't a friend or a family member or some stranger online (me) saying that they want to help you if you truly are in a bad spot ... try seeing a professional. A shrink, a psychiatrist ... it isn't weak. America has made us feel that mental troubles are a "weakness." They're not -- they are real things. A thing sometimes beyond anything we could ever will ourselves out of. Don't be ashamed to reach out. Life is too short, but also too good to give up on. There are so many amazing experiences to be had.John Halligan, whose son died by suicide in 2003 at age 13, led an awareness walk in New York last month, and afterward wrote:
"My message to those who are bullied is to remember that you are loved."Kelly Paul's 17-year-old brother died by suicide four years ago, and she is now preparing to run a 36-day, 535-kilometre marathon in his memory. The marathon is named Heliset Hale, "which in the Sencoten language means to 'awaken life within you.'" Paul said that after her brother's death,
"For a good year, we felt helpless ... We kept asking ourselves why, until we finally realized that only he knew the answer."