Monday, February 29, 2016

If A Person Completes Suicide But We RefuseTalk About It, Are They Still Dead?

When angry count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred.  Thomas Jefferson

I am at a million and counting.  I guess you could say that I am angry a lot.  It has been that way since Peyton's suicide.  People tell me I should let it go.  Those are the people that piss me off the most.

You could say I have had anger issues since Peyton's suicide.  In the 16 months since his death, my emotions have been all over the place.  There is no ride at Six Flags that can compare to the tumultuous adventure I have lived.  One day, I am jumping up and down on deck at the state swim meet cheering on my swimmers,  embracing them in a monster bear hug for their unexpected state title, and two days later, I am trying to find a reason to get out of bed and go to work.

Trust me, it is not fun being angry.  Most of the time, I am an even keeled person.  Many would say boring.  I'm a high school English teacher/coach.  I live in the suburbs, drive an undistinguished truck, read pulp novels, watch the Walking Dead, and love Mexican food, but when I get mad, I get pissed.  Not turning green and smash mad, but pretty damn angry.

So what brings about this anger?  Cowardice and intentional ignorance.  Just last week it happened again.  A former student from my school, away at college, took their life.  I heard about it the same way I hear about many tragedies in our community, through the grapevine.  It started with the usual misinformation until I was able to talk to enough people to put together  the actual story.  The young man had been popular at the school, had a large group of friends, took part in athletics and other activities, and for all intents and purposes, seemed to be doing well in college.  Then, without any perceived warning, he chose suicide.  According to statistics, a suicide affects at least six people intimately.  In a close knit community such as ours, you would expect the effects to be far reaching.  After all, he had just graduated.  His friends weren't confined to the class of 2015, and there were many students at the school who considered him a friend.

Common sense would dictate that you alert the teachers.  After all, his friends might be sitting in their classes trying to sort through their feelings of anger, guilt, and abandonment.   Even students who were on the fringe of his group would be struggling.  After all, this would be the third suicide of a young person in the area in less than four months, but the silence was deafening.  Sure, they alerted his teachers from the previous year, but no one else.  WTF!?!?!?!?!?

Why is this district so unwilling to address this topic?  Is their thinking stuck in the 1950's?  Do they think that by uttering the word "Suicide" they are putting this idea into the heads of students?  Maybe they still think you can get the clap from a toilet seat as well, or that that your neighbor is a commie and should be reported to the McCarthy Hearings.

I'm sorry if I am ranting, but this is not the first time this has happened.  The frustration is endless and maddening.  How long are we going to pretend that this is not a problem within our community. Do people really think that by not talking about suicide that kids will never think of it?  How does that approach work with drinking or drugs?  I'll tell you there is no drug problem in our community, the kids can get their hands on just about anything they want.  No problem.

So what can the community do?  Here's a thought, take a tragedy and make something positive out of it.  Don't let a person's suicide be in vain.  Use it to save other lives.  I made that decision when Peyton died.  I made a decision to save as many people as possible.  Has all my ranting and raving made a difference?  I have no idea, but it is not for a lack of trying.  Self help guru Dr. Wayne Dyer once said, "There's nothing wrong with anger provided you use it constructively." I am trying to turn my anger into something good.  What about you?