Suicide

 

The subject of suicide has engrossed me, in one way or another, since April 1994 when a classmate shot and killed himself a week after Kurt Cobain’s body was discovered. This loss was a life-changing event; these writings are the results of those changes.

Suicide remains a lingering cultural taboo—a reputation which generally prevents our willingness to talk about it openly. The subject matter exists within social cavities: public service announcements, grief support groups, psychological studies, and in hushed voices between friends or intellectuals. Occasionally it comes to the surface and shows us a glimpse of its violence or mystery or perceived romance, and then recedes again, leaving some of us searching for some greater meaning behind its slippery integrity. We believe the answers lie in the beholder, and the answers are as absent to us as the dead.

I have worked alongside suicide prevention organizations, psychologists, sociologists, educators. I have read books about suicide, depression, prevention, euthanasia, adolescence, education, grief, mythology, philosophy; psychological studies about contagion, method, sex, age, class, location, and survival. I have met people who have lost sons, daughters, parents, siblings, lovers, friends, peers, teachers, idols, or almost themselves. I have leaned over the railing at the Golden Gate Bridge and stared down at the water into which more than 1500 people have chosen to make their final descent. And I have stood in front of a mirror and stared at myself, wondering what my life would be like if it weren’t defined by loss.

I am fascinated with the myths we choose to believe about suicide, the truths we refuse to acknowledge, and where we decide to place the thin line between these two ideas.

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