It comes down to the paradoxical intimacy of web anonymity, coupled with the voyeuristic gluttony of the human animal. Against a backdrop of increasing emotional isolation in the real world, where no one really knows anymore how to truly communicate feelings, the sense of power this young man had over his own life and the added impulse of shock value, plus leaving some sort of legacy, leaves much for people to consider in terms of how teenagers are displaced emotionally in today's rather arbitrary world of immediate gratification and for reflection on why he was not more closely monitored by the specialist care responsible for his mental health. Dissociation used to be a technical term for shutting down emotions in severe instances of psychiatric pathologies...these days it is becoming more prevalent as families live back to back under one roof and kids are left to the darker labrynths of the internet where all manner of innuendo and subliminal exposure to various sources and influences take hold at a level they are unable to internalise..... as for the viewership, Snuff movies go for the highest prices and is the most sordid of all sexual abuse "entertainment" available... environments like Second Life which entice youngsters who can fake an age into an environment they are emotionally and psychologically ill equipped for, create a deeper pressure than many realise.
Why this was not immediately reported is the question I wonder about, hoax or not. As to what drives someone to suicide... a myriad of reasons, even the impact of the wrong kind of anti -depressant drugs can be fatal.
This recent online suicide, apparently egged on by viewers strikes a profoundly personal chord in me. I have been through the gamut of emotions and the psychologically torturous roller coaster that ensues after someone close takes their own life. I have also experienced that extraordinary moment of surreal alacrity when one realises that one has the innate ability to actual take one's own life.These experiences have given probably unusual insight into something which for most people remains an untenable mystery and everything including the kitchen sink is thrown into common garden variety interpretations of the why and wherefore's of one of life's most agonising experiences if left behind.
Over a year ago, I was invited to give a talk on suicide in London to a national association dedicated to assisting families in the aftermath and which dedicates huge resources to saving lives. I received this invitation following a post I wrote on ASW about the subject, in an attempt to redress the very common misconceptions about why and how it comes to mind in the first place. It is anything but what one assumes it to be...
And in a ghastly kind of misfire, the internet is educating youngsters into breaking a different kind of taboo.....Sites which dedicate themselves to suicide and glamourise it, would appear to be created by people who have had no idea of what it really entails and the kind of hell many endure on the road to that often inevitable step. Making it an open topic; one which brings out the hidden secretive self annihilating pressures so many kids and adults endure, dealing with the kind of deeply painful topics such as child abuse, which affects many who eventually kill themselves, might offer something of a social balance to this unspoken social shame.
I watched a documentary several months back: I happened upon it accidentally... of security camera footage across the Golden Gate Bridge and how it captures the actual act undertaken by several individuals over a period of time. The film was dedicated to those who took their lives jumping off the bridge during a given year and their names were listed at the end. It took a great deal for me to watch it through to the end, again for deeply personal reasons... I did so, not out of any voyeuristic sensationalism but to absorb the essence of that acute loneliness of the minutes in which they visibly retreat from the world, so as to better understand why my closest friend hung herself in October of 2006, three days after her gorgeous son's 11th birthday. And she was found with her cell phone....
For some suicide is a choice, for others it is a choice of having no choice at all, and for others yet, it is a driven moment of uncontrolled mania which would never have occured in the ''normal state of mind'. The path down this road is anxiety ridden and driven by a calm inner clarity... emotions shut down either this is effectively covered up or the personality regresses into a shell, with expressionless eyes and they have moved beyond the point where returning makes any kind of sense at all. And it is in such moments where it takes so much more than just having the faintest idea of what it takes to save a life.
Again, speaking from painful experience and 'failure', part of the complexity lies in exactly the act of ''discussing suicide'' with someone who alludes to it, mentions it or even threatens it. The risk is ever present and more often than not very real, that the 'talking' is cyclical and from a standpoint of rationality, the momentum swings into depressive anxiousness, neurosis even and levels of despair and back again. One forgets that one is not talking to/with a person of 'normal' mental clarity. With clinical depression and manic depression, Serotinin and other chemical levels in the brain are haywire , making what we regard as a rational discussion, everything but: and depressives are like any other addictives: they hide the truth extremely well: this makes identifying the nature of the kind of suicide very very difficult to call, especially if you are not a trained professional and already know the roadmap with its signs... and even then that is no guarantee.
That suicide is such a mammoth social taboo does not help and as is often poignantly implied, families are often the last to even see the first hints, let alone the signs...As for those who goad and egg on, one is tempted to brand them ignorant cyber thugs and bullies,but are they? Could it be we have bred a social apathy and a boredom so hungry for calculated voyeuristic gluttony that ''anyone'' is able to encourage a teenager to kill themselves in the belief it isn't real? Or should we view it as a different kind of perversion, so much so that in such chat rooms, measures should be in place to have such people permanently banned from social networking in some way.
What though of the families...where and how do they and we fit into this growing tragedy?
Causes Renee Sigel Supports
The Grossman Burn Unit