Free Speech Suicide
We struggle with endings. Let’s talk about it
Whoever names these things decreed September as the unfortunately-acronymed SPAM, Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Kidding aside, I was grateful when I heard our local NBC affiliate would dedicate an entire 6pm newscast to the subject. I decided I would join their “Let’s Talk About It” campaign in writing.
Rather than sorrow or morbidity, I felt an immense sense of peace and relief. Just the idea of talking openly about suicide made me feel better.
But actually putting words down has proven more challenging. Although we have freedom of speech in America, a powerful taboo shields the subject. Even with the official encouragement of a network news program, I still feel like I’m going to get in trouble for bringing it up.
Writing — putting words down — is a form of ending. Suicide poses us such difficulty because it is an ending, and we have no idea how to talk about endings.
I met a coach named Deb Shannon who blew my professional and spiritual mind with a simple question. When starting a job, have you ever had a conversation with your new employer about how and when that employment will end? I’ve never even heard of this happening. This conspicuous silence during the hiring process implies you will stay at that company forever, even while everyone involved knows that’s not true.
Humans are fundamentally story-telling creatures. Instead of sharing tales around a flickering campfire, now we stare at a screen and let it do all the talking. But a look at our stories shows our fear: they never end. Sequel franchises dominate the movies. ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ is in its _eighteenth_ season. Even a show as realistic as ‘This Is Us’ buries death under misleading layers of flashbacks and foreshadowing.
We struggle to talk about suicide and death because we’re uncomfortable with endings. And without a concept of endings, the middles we find ourselves in are muddled in confusion. Not just software and entertainment, but all the spiritual and moral messes of our time.
But as cliche as it sounds, every ending is a beginning. Only once a story is finished, its last word put down, can it take on a life of its own.
Let’s talk about it.