Brother’s Keeper

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About Benoit Denizet-Lewis

Benoit Denizet-Lewis is an editor-at-large with The Good Men Project magazine, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, and the author of two books, including America Anonymous: Eight Addicts in Search of a Life.

Comments

  1. suzanne says:

    Wow. Great reporting and writing, Benoit. What a human tragedy. And somehow made even more poignant since Monadnock is the favorite mountain of Grover’s Corners in Wilder’s Our Town.

  2. David Wise says:

    Great piece. It seems they were wired the same and when one decided to end his life, the other was too grief-stricken to go on. Tragic.

  3. It’s what we mothers of unstable kids fear all the time. This is not a completely unusual case. The suicide rate for bipolar people is 1 in 5, for schizophrenics, 1 in 10. Knowing it’s almost impossible to prevent is the hardest thing of all.

    Thanks for writing about this, Benoit. It really brings the issue home.

  4. Benoit…that was really a poignant and terribly tragic story. I feel so bad for the parents. It’s not fair for people to blame the father for having a gun in the house. That kid was so overwhelmed with thoughts of suicide and depression he would have found some way to take his life. I’ve worked in a facility with suicidal kids. When they are obsessed with committing suicide they will find a way to do it. If there is no mental breakthrough with the kid, then it’s only a matter of time. It’s enough of a loss for the parents without having to feel guilty over the gun situation.
    L. Pye

  5. Ina Chadwick says:

    I finally got around to a lot of reading I’ve been putting off due to a family crisis, and i read this poignant, yet perfectly reported piece, with great intensity. Years ago, I reported on teen suicides for a local CT newspaper and the ignorance then—1983 or so—was astounding. The title of the article was “When Feelings Prove Fatal” But in those days no one completely understood the name and/or prevalence of bi-polar behavior, and other chemical risks for suicide, including congenital, self-induced or both. Unfortunately, in 1988 I learned too much about suicide when a dear friend drowned himself (not easy to do) in the backyard swimming pool. He was 40. He had been hiding his manias and depressions from his friends and his wife. She knew nothing of his past problems in another marriage. She had slammed out of the house and asked for a separation only hours before he took his life. With an unopened, recently filled RX of lithium in the kitchen and no note, he ended what apparently had been a long struggle with torment. And such a long deep hole of shame.

    How to deal with what one senses can happen, and how to proceed without blame if it does happen is one of the burdens the survivors of suicide push up hill everyday. Thank you, Benoit, for the facts that are deftly crafted into a story with pathos.

  6. A friend says:

    I am happy to see this piece edited from its original version, which still is floating around on the web. I was one of the girls who turned Greg down in the weeks before his death, and at the time when this story was being written, I refused to be interviewed. It’s been over nine years since we lost Greg, and I have thought of him every single day. Recently, I saw David (his and Eric’s dad) for the first time since Greg’s funeral, and it was the first time I was able to talk about Greg without having it turn to a discussion about this-horrible-thing-that-happened, but about him as a person, and the person he was before Eric died.

    I’m impressed with this piece – it gives a feel of my hometown, the people, our troubles, and the pervasive gossip but the inability to face feelings. What this piece is lacking, however, is the perspective which I’m embarrassed to say I wasn’t strong enough at the time to give – the perspective of the people who were close friends with Greg both before and after Eric’s death. You can hear hints of it in the interviews with his teammates and briefly in Kristen’s statement about his bad luck with girls, as well. A switch went off and he was a different person. In the years that had have passed, I have written my own piece about all of this and I introduced two characters – Old Greg and New Greg. As his friend, classmate, a girl he dated, and teammate before and after Eric’s death, I have to say the person he became was so uncomfortable and unsustainable and so unlike the person I knew him to be. Old Greg would have hated New Greg, and in my mind, I still like to think that it was Old Greg who made the decision to keep New Greg from completely taking over. We lost Greg the day we lost Eric.

    Thank you for keeping their story alive. I was one of those people who never took action to stop what was spiraling out of control and it’s taken 9 years to begin forgiving 16 year-old me for not doing more. Stories like this need to be told and can empower those who are witnessing friends and family in trouble to seek help.

    • Thanks for your insights. Hopefully your comments, and the piece as a whole, will give a broader understanding to mental health at such a precarious age.

  7. Richard Aubrey says:

    Some people’s troubles are so great they’re a black hole, swallowing everything their friends and coleagues can spare. And it makes no difference. There’s no reason to feel guilty for not having an infinite amount of time, attention, care, and competence.

  8. I just sent this note to my editor at The Good Men’s Project after reading your column here as I just sent him a column on my brother Erik yesterday: “OMG just read Brother’s Keeper on your site as I saw a post on my facebook thread from the page there..way too eerie…Eric a brother who commits suicide…brother’s keeper …my brother’s name is Erik and he attempted suicide as I say in my article and I have felt responsible …holy coincidence!”
    A tragic story, sad for everyone. I’ve been living with guilt for 30 years and my brother “lived”. I cannot imagine the guilt everyone in your story must be feeling no matter how they rationalize their decisions.
    Donald

  9. Allison Kay says:

    Having endured a two-year suicidal depression I feel compelled to respond to the tone of many of the comments. Unless you are terminally ill with a non-related illness, suicide is a tragic mistake. No matter how bad you feel, or what your reasons–wait. Suicide is nowhere near as inevitable as many of the commenters say. Tough it out. I don’t think you could get much worse off than I was, though this is not a competition! I couldn’t understand why anyone wanted to be alive. I thought my family would be better off without me dragging everyone down. I often did not think I could get through one more day. I was misdiagnosed and mis-treated. I gained 50 lbs in 2 months due to the meds, and wasn’t told that was why. Plus–really–my house burned down. But I never tried to kill myself because it was the one thing I had confidence that I could do successfully. Somewhere deep inside where I couldn’t even feel it, I wanted to live. So I waited. There’s no reason to rush it. Wait. Finally I got better. I am positive that almost everyone could be saved with enough care, in every sense of that word.

    • Allison,
      You and I have a lot in common. I too suffered a crushing depression. I spent a year planning my suicide, but I never attempted it because I had no intention of failing – and I needed to know there was aboslutely no other solution before taking that final step. That was more than half my life ago.

      But it is a mistake to assume that because you and I were able to survive, that everyone is able to ‘tough it out’ as we did. As you pointed out, somewhere deep inside we wanted to live. A friend of Greg’s said “we lost Greg the day we lost Eric”. I attended Greg’s funeral, and I think his father David might agree with that statement. I also saw that loss of will to live in my own father when my brother died. Sometimes there are tragedies that people can’t, or don’t want to, recover from.

  10. As a pharmacist, I was mostly appalled at the number of drugs this child was prescribed. Those are very heavy drugs and I can’t imagine putting a child on trazodone. Suicide is largely preventable, but I see this as a parental failure compounded by poor psychiatric care. People are so afraid to say “are you thinking about suicide? do you have a plan?” because they think it will give someone ideas. And while there is always the possibility that a suicidal person is committed enough to lie, most will be honest. And if a child’s sibling, parent, or close friend has committed suicide, there is an increased risk that they will follow suit. We have to be willing to have these uncomfortable conversations with our kids, because they are literally life-saving.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] the positive side, this allows for some stellar reporting (the first issue included this harrowing  report of two teenage brothers who committed suicide), thoughtful writing (loved this account of a [...]

  2. [...]  Brother’s Keeper: Why did two high school students, brothers, commit suicide? [...]

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