Teen Suicide

Suicide and the Individual

So my last post was in response to an article that I read in the Globe and Mail on Teen Suicide. This post is a bit of an elaboration on the same subject but less specific: suicide, not teen suicide.

In my last post, I ended it with the following words:

It makes me upset that people keep blaming individuals in society. In my opinion, the problem is the institutions within society. Isn’t it after all that the institutions influence individuals? I think so.

And yes, it does make me upset that people always blame the individuals in society for suicide. I never read or hear about people “blaming institutions.” What do I mean by this? Well, I believe individuals are tied to institutions but those institutions are the same items in society that withhold individuals from embarking on their greatest potential.

But, heck, what does THAT even mean?

A couple basic examples of institutions include family, marriage, religion/church, government, schools. If there is too much of an institutional influence on an individual then what are they without the institution? Perhaps nothing more than just a thing. Society teaches individuals that they must have a family… a marriage…be in school… in order to amount to anything or at least live a meaningful life. I beg to differ. I can exist without a family. In fact, a lot of people can exist without a family but what if in one’s life everything around them is telling them that they must love their parents, must love their siblings, must love their cousins… blah blah blah. What if those “institutions” are the very thing that is “sick” instead of the individual? Yes, that is right I said it. School can be broken. Marriage can be broken. Even family can be broken.

Too much of an institution that is sick or broken can make someone feel less of the potential person that they can be. If potential cannot be reached, how can an individual continue to exist? If a person cannot amount to their full potential, then what are they, even if the very institutions that exist within their lives are the same things that are preventing them from being the best “thing” that they can be?

Take for instance, school and teen suicide. There is always the theme of bullying or lack of acceptance or isolation that occurs within the teen who choose to take their own life. School is sick. Not the individual.

What about the teen who, my heart goes out to, choose to take their own life because of family life at home AND at school? Both institutions prevented them from reaching their own potential.

But what is potential?

Potential is being able to be their own self without having to be ridiculed, isolated, bullied, etc. etc. within these institutions.

School creates isolation. Marriage creates isolation. Families create isolation. Governments create isolation. When someone is isolated from the very things that society tells them they must have, then what is the person left with? Feelings of not being accepted, not being embraced, not being loved.

So how do we get rid of these feelings of isolation? Create acceptance. Create love. Create nurturing environments.

I am sick and tired of reading about suicide and other individuals blaming the individual. The suicidal individual may not be the one who is sick; it may be the very institution in which one exists that is sick.

That is all.

Teen Suicide

I couldn’t agree more with Melissa Carroll, PhD candidate at McMaster University, when she says in the Globe and Mail article titled “Mental Illness? Yes, but also homophobia”:

But the larger question remains: Why? What are we as a community not addressing? What a well-rounded argument makes clear is that outside factors such as hatred, ignorance and violence are conditioned by adults and placing vulnerable teens in harm’s way. Suicide is not just a personal problem; it’s also a socially supported act we each need to seriously address, with all facts on the table.

The article isn’t blaming homophobia for teen suicide but it is pointing out the fact that a large number of LGBT teens are the ones committing suicide. So what is it about homophobia? Racism? Classism? Sexism? Or gender oppression that is linked to suicide.

Just as Melissa notes, the hatred, ignorance and violence that are conditioned by adults. So are adults to blame? No but I think adults should step up. Growing up, adults in schools, like teachers, allow students to be bullied. They also influence other students’ view points or knowledge on a certain group of people, whether the group is a certain ethnic, racial, gender group and even one belonging to a particular orientation.

I mean, isn’t it after all the purpose of school to socialize young people to be a certain way, follow the rules, be polite, and hopefully contribute to society in one way or another. Am I blaming teachers? No. Am I blaming schools? No. Am I blaming education? Yeah, why not.

Being an Aboriginal person who has gone to a Catholic elementary school and then a public high school, not once did we learn about what really happened in the history of Canada. Oh but it was the one teacher who called her own student the “stupid Indian.” And it was the history teacher that told her class that residential schools were created to educate “the natives.” The more correct word should have been to assimilate. And being in an post-secondary institution today, I can only learn about Canadian history by actually signing up for those programs and if I read a book a dedicated to First Nations people and their history.

It makes me upset that people keep blaming individuals in society. In my opinion, the problem is the institutions within society. Isn’t it after all that the institutions influence individuals? I think so.