Saturday, January 9, 2010

The S Word, Part 3

Moving Past the “Why?”

Dwelling on this “Why?” Question in regards to suicide can lead to blame, anger, and further destruction, so we must move on to more constructive thinking. Whenever I work with students on their writing, one of the biggest hurdles they face is answering the “So What?” Question—the purpose of the discussion.

In writing this series, the question “Why is it important to understand why someone would commit suicide?” is implied. The answer is that an empowering WE CAN make a difference in someone’s life if we’re prepared (and, of course, they accept the help we offer).

yes we can Both Tanner and Craig felt that they would be better off without the world and perhaps that the world might be better off without them. The most logical ways to prevent a suicide is to make sure that everyone, especially those at greater risk, 1) feel like their existence is somehow appreciated and 2) that their problems are manageable if not surmountable.

One Brief Glimpse

It’s not often that I bring up events of the present but I think it’s important in this case to assess how I handled a related situation.

“So… I hear you warned Stuart about me?”

chat A chat bubble had appeared unexpectedly. It was a GMB I’d met once and found unstable. I had indeed warned my friend about this instability and some unsafe behavior.

“So…why do all of you guys cover your asses instead of letting people make opinions for themselves?”

I explained to him why I’d said what he had and felt completely justified. “You weren’t being safe and I was watching out for him.”

“Well, maybe you should have seen it as a cry for help rather than a chance to gossip. It’s people like you who make me want to kill myself.”

I stopped there for a moment. In part it was a reaction in the vein of You did not just say that!, but clearly he had and was not joking. I thought I’d done the right thing, yet I’d effectively hurt someone enough for suicide to be an issue?

“You want to kill yourself sometimes? Have you talked to someone about it? Does your family know?” I responded with a barrage of questions.

He assured me he was seeing an LDS Family Services therapist and that he was doing better. I offered him the number of the therapist on campus (who I’d never went to following a traumatic flashback to my mission).


“My family knows, but they don’t do anything,” he said bitterly. “You of all people should know what I’m going through, but you just act like you’re perfect.”

“I’m not. No one is.”

“You should have been there for me. That behavior was a cry for help. You should have called me on it, but you just let it all happen,” he jabbed as I wondered how much I was to blame for any of this.

I don’t think that either of us was 100% culpable. That said, I’ve assessed the situation and drawn the following conculsions:

Showing concern
Asking what help he’d received and who knew

Not calling him on dangerous behavior
Not taking advantage of resources for my own mental health

So here’s the plan of action:
I’ll check up on him regularly. have long talks about the Gay Mormon Dilemma, share my experiences with depression, call him on risky behavior, and most importantly be his friend.


This is a real problem with real lives at stake. In the past six months I’ve heard numerous stories from Gay Mormon Boys upset at the lives they can and cannot live:

  • A missionary telling himself that he’d rather jump in front of a bus than spend one more day in the mission.
  • Beloved Boyd who attempted to kill himself to escape the choice between sexuality and religion.
  • Two students at the Y admitting to continual repression of suicidal thought and behavior as they repress sexual tendencies.
  • A friend disappointed that his sexuality was not fixed by prayer and a mission attempting suicide weeks before his scheduled return date.
  • (for related discussion, follow this link).

There are resources out there for those contemplating suicide and those who are trying to help someone avoid that decision:

End of series.



Anonymous said...

Your related story about the internet conversation rang very true to me. Something I have found is that as soon as my husband or I so much intimated that we were not exclusively heterosexual, we started receiving encouraging emails from others in the MoHo community. I think there is this intrinsic desire to protect that sets in among us, because we've all had these thoughts (sometimes more serious than others). I appreciate that support, its gotten me through some rough times. Community is a good thing - when you are connected to others through common experiences, you stop feeling so alone.

Anonymous said...

I have appreciated your series, and your thoughtful approach, to this topic of suicide. Thank you. I am sure lives will be touched, and helped, because of your efforts.

I remember a few years ago having a tough converation with my therapist. I was struggling with some very painful issues and was struggling to not do anything drastic because of them. My therapist said, "The souls has an innate desire to help keep the body alive." I agreed, then shared with her, "I know. There have been times when I have been severely depressed and have been driving down the street, thinking how easy it would be to drive into a cement block and end all this. Then someone will drive near me, cut me off, almost run me off the road, and I will shout at them, 'What the freaking heck are you doing??? Are you trying to kill me???' and, then I will remember that I am suicidal and think, 'Oh'". We both got a bit of a chuckle out of that. :)

Love and happy day!

Ben said...

For me, the closest I've ever come to suicidal thoughts was wishing the plane would crash on my way home from my mission. I thought it'd be the perfect scenario: it wouldn't be suicide, plus I'd die as a worthy, full-time missionary and be saved in the Kingdom. Also, I wouldn't have to deal with, or make others deal with, decisions I might make in the future concerning my sexuality.

It's not difficult for me to see why some choose death instead of life. Maybe it's because I'm a pessimist sometimes. Suicide is difficult for optimists to understand.

Sometimes it's hard to help suicidal friends because they can be very venomous. It takes extra thick skin to not get hurt by their cruel remarks. Sometimes I'm tempted to say, "Fine. All I'm trying to do is help. If you're gonna be that way then I'm leaving." It's vital to exhaust all one's compassion and patience in order to help these hurting and hurtful people. In the end, if a life has been saved, then it's all worth it.

A Gay Mormon Boy said...

@Mme C: I've found community to be a very important thing lately. I can remember a time when I thought that I was the only Gay Mormon Boy only to now be connected with well over a hundred and become familiar with a veritable spectrum of stories and beliefs.

@slp: That definitely puts things in perspective.

@boskers: I've got to say that it is definitely hard to discuss such serious matters. In the week that I was writing this, the subject came up with a wide range of friends and acquaintances online. I was astonished at how many people faced these thoughts on a regular basis, but they definitely offered some perspective on what they needed to hear to pull out of it.

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