Suicide in the Age of Social Media

With the recent buzz around the suicide of Robin Williams I came across this article from the Washington Post  that puts the popular “Genie, Your Free” phrase into perspective. One I understand all too well.

Suicide contagion and social media: The dangers of sharing ‘Genie, you’re free’

“The starry sky from Disney’s Aladdin, and the written implication that suicide is somehow a liberating option, presents suicide in too celebratory a light, Moutier said….”

It goes on to point out… “A quarter of the population suffers from mental health issues that could potentially drive suicidal thoughts,” Moutier said. “This is a very important issue, from a public health standpoint, and one we need to bring to light.”

As a teenage I was part of that quarter of the population. [1] My life was in a tailspin of stress, anxiety, depression… and eventually suicide. My suicide attempt wasn’t outwardly dramatic. In fact no one even knew about it until a long time afterwards. That doesn’t make it any less serious.

covenant to lifeIf I hadn’t had youth leaders who took proactive steps the year before I may not have been so lucky. That year we had talked about suicide and signed a Covenant to Life.

When I wanted to commit suicide it was the signatures on this paper that stopped me. There was a voice in my head telling me it would be better to end it all, end the pain, that no one would miss me, I would be free. But another voice, a louder one told me, “You made a promise now keep it.”

That was it.

The voices stilled and the tears came.

Because of the promise I made to Bob Cote and James Grace I am alive.

In 1994 there was no social media. But I understood the fact that I wanted to be free from this life. What would it have been like if I had been inundated with with social media messages telling me that I could get what I wanted? With messages of a glorified celebrity death?

Even though those messages are meant to be cute or to honor the deceased they pose a danger to people who are at risk for suicidal thoughts. Social Media is influential. Help pass on messages of hope and healing. And if you or someone you know is contemplating suicide get help. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.

[1] Testimony Poem

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