Sunday, February 06, 2005

Ten young adults talking about suicide

Whether it's a gum commercial on TV or a survey from the news to the phrase "__ in ten people" is utilized constantly. This week, we're focusing on the issue of suicide. There are five of us. In the midst of a crazy week, we each decided to meet up and bring one friend so that we could reach that magical number of ten.

What follows are our findings. Are they scientific? Hell no. But neither are most of the polls you hear on TV and radio and read in the paper.

9 in 10 have thought about suicide.

4 in 10 have thought about it in the last six months. Usually around finals or when grades are due to go out.

3 in 10 have actually tried to kill themselves.

A: I had just broken up with my boyfriend and I was alone in the house listening to Mariah Carey sing "I'll Be There." I was crying and he was probably with the skank he'd been cheating on me with. I just sat there in the dark, crying, listening to that same track over and over on the CD player. I was thinking about how Monday would roll around and everyone would know we broke up and that he'd cheated on me and how pathetic I'd look. I'd called my best friend right after he broke up with me and her response: "You had to know he was cheating." So I was thinking that pretty much everybody would be thinking, "What an idiot." Excpet for the ones thinking, "What a spazz!" and feeling sorry for me. I just couldn't face Monday in school with everyone staring at me and bumping into my ex in the hall with skank. So I went to the medicine cabinet in the bathroom and found a bottle of aspirin. I grabbed a Snapple and downed the whole bottle. I was gagging near the end and remember thinking, "Shit, I'm about to choke to death!" And then I was all like, "Oh yeah, well I'm trying to kill myself here." So I swallowed them all but ended up gagging at the end and puking all over the carpet. Everyone of them came up. Landed on the new carpet my parents had just put in my room. Which was all I could think about then. How I needed to clean that mess up before they saw it. So I grabbed some paper towels and mopped up the mess then a wash cloth and scrubbed at it. By the time I got done with that, I was mainly pissed off at myself. I tossed Mariah in the trash can and went on to sleep. Ironically, I woke up the next morning with the worst headache. And my stomach felt like there was a shredder inside it. That's my big I-once-tried-suicide story.

B: I wasn't really what anyone would call popular. And I was always sure people were talking about me. There were these three guys, jocks, who were always picking on me. A couple of times they put my head in the toilet in the men's room and flushed repeatedly. Or I'd be walking down the hall and one of them would come up behind me and knock my books off my hip and everybody would laugh. I wore really thick glasses then and still had braces and really, really bad zits and all of three got me a nickname for each one. I was called "Zit Boy" more often than I was called by my name, you know? But my skin was starting to clear up and there was this girl in physics who was starting to talk to me. Senior prom was coming up and she started coming over to my house. I started thinking she was interested in me. So we're going over this thing on properties of manner and stuff when I say, "Hey, you got a date to the prom?" She shakes her head and I say, "Want to go with me?" She just stares at me for what seemed like a hour and then says, "Zits, I just need help with the class. I get enough crap for talking to you, no way am I going to the prom with you." And she'd never called me "Zits" or "Zit Boy" or any other name so it just really hurt. I couldn't even look at her. Finally she goes, "I'm out of here" and leaves. And I remember just feeling like the biggest idiot in the world because I'd asked her out and thought maybe she might like me. I remember I had this big zit right next to my nose but other than that I wasn't covered with them like I was from 13 to 17. And that was a really big thing because I usually had 'em all over my face. I mean, one zit was nothing compared to what I'd gotten used to for four years. It was like a miracle or something. So there I'd been thinking that things were finally starting to change and that maybe this girl who would talk to me at school and who was coming over and studying in my bedroom might actually be interested in me and stuff. I just felt like nothing's changed, nothing's changing, nothing's ever going to change, this is my life and this is the way it is now and like forever. So I went down to the den, my dad's a big gun collector, and opened up his gun cabinet and looked around trying to decide handgun or rifle? I grabbed what I found out later was a Glock and it was loaded and I put it to my head and tried to squeeze the trigger but the thing was jammed. I'm standing there squeezing and squeezing and nothing. Then I hear the front door and know it's my mother coming home so I put it back and hightail it out of the den.

C: I'd gotten two rejection letters [college] in the same week and all my friends were talking about where they'd be going and my parents kept asking me if I'd heard anything yet and I kept saying not yet. I was thinking no one was going to accept me and wondering how I was going to tell my parents that. I was salutatorian at my high school. And I took that hard too because I thought I should have been valedictorian. So I busted this plastic razor and took out the blade and I was trying to slash my wrist but nothing was happening. I was poking and scratching but couldn't seem to break the skin. And I was bearing down hard. And so this went on for about thirty minutes before my kid brother really started banging on the door and making jokes about
"What are you doing in there all this time? I don't hear no shower!" I threw everything in the trash, washed my hands and went for a walk.

Biggest worries/fears that make you consider suicide these days?

C: Disappointing my parents. I can live with a B or a C. I'd be pissed off and angry at myself but that would be it. My parents would be mortified.

D: Finals.

E: True that! Finals. It always seems like you have the time to study and you're pulling through but then along comes finals and it's just so fucking crazy because you have to cram and cram and near the end you're not sure you're going to be able to pull it out and get that last burst of energy you need to see it through. My mind's wondering and I've got notes and books around me and I'm sitting there thinking about something really lame or not even that but like staring into space and thinking "Study!" but I just don't have the energy to and that's usually when thoughts about killing myself kick in. It's only during finals week. Any other time I can cope and handle anything but during finals week, right before that last final especially, I'm a raw nerve.

A: My love life.

F: Bills. I'm always juggling everything and always having to take out short term loans for school each sememster because money is just so damn tight. Right now, I've got about 400 dollars on VISA that's just text books. Oh, and like this semester, I had one prof who says to us, "I expect you to all visit a museum, go to a play and to a concert and bring back your ticket stub." I don't have that kind of money. I don't have a car so it costs to go somewhere. There's no free concert I can go if he wanted a stub. I mean I'm living Ramen noodles seven days a week and he's thinking that I have money to go buy tickets? A ticket to a campus play may seem like nothing to him, but I truly have to watch each penny. I even roll pennies. I sell plasma. I work two part-time jobs. I live on Ramen and microwave popcorn. If I'm lucky, I'm able to pay a bill off buy the second notice but sometimes I'm not that lucky. So when money has gone beyond tight and someone starts trying to add to my expenses, that's enough to send me off the edge. Or at work. One job, it's just me all night. Fine. But the other job, I'm a student worker. And everytime there's a birthday in the department, they're coming around for money. "We just need five dollars." Just five dollars? Oh well, hold on a moment and I'll pull that out of my ass. I don't have anyone helping me with bills, my parents can't, so I'm all alone basically and I don't see the need to fork over five dollars for some professor who isn't looking at it the way I am which is, "That just cost me about an hour of work." But if you say no, you get a reputation and the rumor is you don't get asked back. They say that they don't need you. The work's easy enough and I don't like looking for jobs so it's basically like I feel black mailed into giving five dollars every week.

G: The war. The mood of the country. I just feel everything's so fucked up and keep thinking it's only going to get worse. I can't believe what's going on and how so many people seem happy in their stupidity. This illegal war is so wrong and so destructive for everyone involved. And all that bullshit about what our country stands for goes right out the window because that's where we tossed it. It gets me really angry. And I'll see a story or a photo of some American or Iraqi that died and it just really turns my mood black. I just can't deal with the country's insanity.

H: Guilt. Guilt over something I've done or something I have that somebody else is doing without. Guilt over feeling like I didn't do enough to get Kerry elected and Bush out of office.
Guilt over telling the homeless person I didn't have a spare cigarette. Guilt, guilt, guilt.

I: Feeling like I'm not getting anywhere and probably falling behind. I hear all the time about how my brother's getting this grade or that honor at the college he's at and that doesn't help.

J: I think I'd say the war too. Because it's so huge and so many people are just acting like it's not going on. They're off somewhere obsessing over Michael Jackson's trial or Brad [Pitt] and Jennifer [Aniston] breaking up. And it's just depressing to the think that these might be our priorities. Is this the character of our country? If it is, things will never get better. I believe strongly in transforming society in a just and fair one with opportunities for all but I think about all the people stuffing themselves on crap news or crap TV like American Idol or whatever and not even picking up a paper. I remember being in a class in April of 2003 and we'd had a lot of casualties but this one idiot flipping through her People or whatever says before class starts, "Oh, we're not even near 200. People need to quit trying to make this into some sort of big deal." And now we're at over 1,440 and I have to wonder if she could pull herself away from the Sexiest Man Alive or whatever long enough to wonder if it's become a "some sort of big deal" yet.

If someone came to you and told you they were thinking about suicide would you be comfortable talking to them about it? 7 out of 10 said yes.

What would you tell them?

Three people felt they'd need to think on that or know what the reason behind the person considering suicide. Four shared what they'd tell the person.

B: I'd tell them about how I tried to kill myself and what I was thinking then about how nothing ever gets better. I mean, my braces are off, I have contacts, and my skin cleared up. I can get a date and no one makes fun of you for studying here. So a situation may be really bad but it's a situation and it can pass.

F: I'd make them list their problems that were so huge that they wanted to kill themselves and then I'd make them take a look at the tragedies other people have because a lot of time you just need some perspective and to move out of your own head long enough to realize you aren't the fucking center of the world. This one girl at work, my day job, wanted to kill herself because her hair dresser had screwed up her "beautiful hair." I was all, "It's only hair, it will grow out. The whole world's not staring at you and thinking, damn, her hair is fucked up." But sometimes there can be something minor that's huge to you because you're not getting perspective from people around you.

J: I'd tell them that there are enough losers in this country already trying to destroy our democracy, most of them are in the administration, and that we need people who care to stick around because we have to tell truths and change this nightmare.

G: Yeah, I'd agree with that. And I'd agree with ___ [F] and try to point out to them that they could get involved in a march or speak out and make a difference because it is easy to get focused on yourself. But if you start realizing what you can do with others and working towards something, you will find that some of the "big" problems you have aren't so big.

6 out of ten knew someone who had committed sucide.

Here's a statistic for you, from SAVE: Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, "For young people 15-24 years old, suicide is the third leading cause of death." You can also check out Sucide and Suicide Prevention for additional information. The CDC also has information.

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