Suicide, Sick Systems and Survivor’s Guilt


image from questionable topic

I really want to talk about all these LGBT youth killing themselves, but considering there seems to be a new suicide almost every day it’s hard to figure out where to start. Let’s see if I can provide a useful framework to help shape the upcoming posts on the issue (puts mental health worker hat on):

The United States is (and has been for a while) a sick system for LGBT people.

Just sit with that thought for a second. Let it ache you at your core so you understand the severity of the situation.

What exactly is a sick system? Let’s review the four basic rules:

1. Keep them too busy to think.
2. Keep them tired.
3. Keep them emotionally involved.
4. Reward intermittently.

It’s very easy (lazy) to look at things like victories in the courtroom over the last decade (sodomy isn’t a crime anymore WHOOPI!, we can get married in a handful of states, GREAT!) and say things will get better (and already are). But when you look at actual lived experiences, especially of black and brown LGBT folk who still have to deal with persistent racism in this country, you can clearly see that’s not the case. Telling people “it gets better” is not only lying, but it contributes to the problem as well (see #3 and #4). The way I see it, this is a classic case of survivor’s guilt.

We’ll get into this in more detail later, but one thing that disgusts me about these videos are the people (especially celebrities) who are like “…if you’re feeling down, please call/message me. There are resources available…suicide is not the answer.”

Says who?

It’s condescending (and inaccurate) to assume that someone who kills themselves didn’t have any support or didn’t try to reach out for help. Take Rutgers student Tyler Clementi:

He realized his roommate was spying on him.
Sought out advise from the “community.”
While simultaneously taking action (alerting his RA) decided it wasn’t worth it (in the end).
Then jumped off the George Washington Bridge.

Many people who commit suicide (if not most I would argue) do a cost-benefit analysis of their situation, decide the cons outweigh the pros and decide they want out. And honestly I can’t blame them. In all seriousness, the only reason I haven’t committed suicide is because I’m too lazy to kill myself.

There’s some good research analyzing the meaning of the method of suicide (I’ll try to find exact citations). These kids aren’t cutting their wrists or taking a bottle of pills. They’re jumping off bridges and blowing their brains out with guns. They’re making sure the task gets completed.

That’s how serious the despair is.

Have you all seen the documentary The Bridge? Go Netflix it right now. It’s a disturbing (yet remarkable) documentary from 2006 about people who jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. They all had someone, at least one person who cared, but that wasn’t enough to stop them from killing themselves. These people made a decision, one that makes the rest of us (still alive) very sad, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a sound decision. And that’s where the conversation needs to begin.

I just feel like if we all stopped focusing on making ourselves feel better (for a moment) we can take a critical look at what is going on and then recommend more relevant solutions.

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