Is It Ever Okay to Publish a Suicide Note?

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About Tom Matlack

Tom Matlack is the co-founder of The Good Men Project. He has a 18-year-old daughter and 16- and 7-year-old sons. His wife, Elena, is the love of his life. Follow him on Twitter @TMatlack.

Comments

  1. Nathan tynan says:

    So I just read the suicide note and no I don’t think it is helpful at all to the issues to publish it. His family are grateful of course as they miss him so anything they can do to try make him into something other than another suicide statistic is understandable. The publishing of the letter though sends a bad message to people though, to me it does no more than “validate” his decision to take his own life, he wanted to be heard and thought the best way was to leave a pretty note and kill himself. In my opinion the pieces these people need to be able to read more of is people who have been there and made it out, or how the scars of their suicides never heal for those left behind. Reading a note of someone who tells people not to blame themselves does nothing as they still will. To read him telling people to go on holidays and have a good time obviously shows a lack of awareness how hard us who are left behind find it to cope with suicides. That’s the sort of stories we need, about the real victims of suicide the ones still alive.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Nathan, I really like the idea you have of finding stories of people who considered suicide – and even attempted – only to survive and be grateful.

      I heard and episode of This American Life that featured the story of a man who survived (somehow!) a jump from Golden Gate. It was un-frickin-believable. His entire body was broken. But after the attempt and the survival, he was free in a way he never was before. I wonder if that would also cause people who already have suicidal ideation to attempt more?

      Fact is, what we need to talk about here is more than just male rape. It’s also about TALKING about suicide. It’s about a woman like Trey’s mother being able to say, “this happened to my family” without shame. It’s about us saying, “We ARE going to talk about this because we don’t want people to feel like they can’t talk about their suicidal thoughts” It’s about people LISTENING to their sons when they’re depressed and helping them GET HELP that they need, rather than saying, “toughen up!” (not that Trey’s family did that, but many families do).

      It’s about taking young men’s depression, PTSD, or whatever other contributing factors seriously.

      But yes, absolutely, I agree and would LOVE to publish a series of stories by men who have survived suicidal thoughts and are so grateful to be alive.

      • Nathan Tynan says:

        I totally agree this story is about more than male rape, although that’s an important issue to discuss, and what triggered this instance, in reality the trigger for the suicidal depression will be many and varied, what’s needed is for the community to understand that depression isn’t just someone feeling sad its a real and deadly illness. We need our young men to understand its healthy to talk about issues thankfully sites like http://www.softenthefckup.com.au are trying to get this message out, and with the good promotion of Movember depression is being learnt about by a new group of people. What really needs to be promoted is that it’s no good for people to hear your message if you aren’t still alive for them to help you

        • Tom Matlack says:

          Nathan I understand your concern and obviously agree that in the end we need to be telling stories about people who have been to the point of considering suicide and found a way out. That is why I published this exchange, to be frank. Because my friend attempted suicide twice and now is home with his wife and three kids. I am quite sure that everyone in Trey’s life wishes that were true of him too.

      • But yes, absolutely, I agree and would LOVE to publish a series of stories by men who have survived suicidal thoughts and are so grateful to be alive.

        I can see that It would be great and right on the money for GMP. Real Stories by Real Men about them and Suicide. Totally on mission and what GMP has been about from day one.

        .. but In many ways there is one word that gets in the way: “grateful”. I deal with suicide a lot, people who have been suicidal, are suicidal and others who may well become suicidal due to the risk factors that have ended up carrying. Of course I have also had to deal with those who have succeeded and get labelled as suicides. As a rule I don’t use any of those labels as they are far too restricting and even pejorative.

        I’m aware of how so many people talk of suicide in bold and even dramatic language. It’s people attempting to make sense of something they can’t experience. The ideas around the subject tend to get coloured, extended and even Disneyfied, but that is how the person looking on attempts to make sense of what the other person is experiencing. It is not how the person in the centre sees things or talks about them.

        To give a parallel – I hear all the time how people describe disability. The most common phrase that comes out of people’s mouths is “Isn’t that Terrible”. Oddly the disabled person it’s aimed at does not view their experience and life as being terrible – it lacks the drama that other people attempt to impose. I hear all the time about how language is misused around Sex, Sexuality, Gender, Make Up Tips – you name it, and yet the same concern is not exercised around the subject of Suicide. For the subject to be covered, discussed, written about with any degree of authenticity some will have to recognise that Drama is simply not a factor and distracts massively from the reality.

        Deciding to take a road that is not taking you over a bottomless precipice is not accompanied by blinding Lights, Revelations and some Road to Damascus moment. It’s quiet, gentle, simple and even unrecognised and not comment worthy.

        From experience and observation – people who have addressed suicide and moved on are not grateful and don’t spend all day being grateful. They are just living life. I know quite a few who would baulk at the idea of saying they were grateful, because in so many ways they are not! They have dealt with very real suicide – their own suicide – and now they live – it’s just living – No Grand Gestures or Expansive Emotions required or even involved.

        All too often there are very Life Affirming Stories – the Guy who got cut into 72 pieces and still ran the NY marathon – backwards! Yippey – but for every Disneyesque super hero you have so many Average Joe types where it’s far from dramatic, very plain and even boring.

        Focusing on drama is also one of the most dangerosue things that can happen around suicide. It misguides people when the real danger arises. The idea that people have to be depressed to commit suicide is so wrong, and most often people become very calm, happy and even joyful in the run up to committing suicide. They have decided to end it – the trouble is over – people around them give a sigh of relief and assume all is well. It’s the calm before the storm – well it’s the mistaken calm by onlookers before the storm of recrimination with them weeping and asking “What happened?”.

        You know someone has been down and having a hard time – they then perk up and all seems great. Big danger sign!

        There is no drama for the suicidal person – to them it’s simple, straight forward, undramatic and everyday. Hum Drum. Because people are taught and even but into the idea that Suicide has to be dramatic they miss the prosaic signs that are the most dangerous.

        I do believe that GMP has a real opportunity to be on mission and make a difference, even if to just one person. But, when it comes to dealing with Suicide and men, It’s the guys story – needs to be in his language – and above all else it has to be real.

        If there is one thing that can be said about Trey’s letter it is real – simple – undramatic – if the subject was not his suicide it could even be seen as everyday and just a guy getting on with life – undramatically.

    • Nathan, scroll down from that original article and read the comments. One young man wrote to say that after reading that article he has the courage to live another day. If it saved one life for one more day that is enough reason for it to have been written. However, I think its reach will go much further than that. The entire Amherst College student body is now aware of it and in light of all that has transpired there over the past few weeks, I believe this young man’s message is important and needed to be heard.

  2. He needed people to see that it was more than an act. That it was something that lived with him every living moment. If it was cancer or ms or some other disease we could all justify it. Because we can’t see it ourselves it not as serious….sometimes therapy doesn’t work…not all swords are made of the same Steele…I hope Someone heard him…Rest In Peace.

  3. I think to reach a greater truth, sometimes we have to push the boundaries of what is comfortable or acceptable…to speak the unspeakable is quite groundbreaking here…you are taking great risks here on this site everyday….but I think it is getting better all the time…

    Thank you for digging deeper…and for allowing the family members to be heard….we need to talk about these difficult topics before someone else takes his/her life needlessly…

  4. Alchemist says:

    Some of the readers of the article that have prostates seem to have no idea how traumatizing rape can be. They seem to want to downplay the connection between Trey’s rape and his suicidal depression. This is going to be difficult for some of you to wrap your minds around but I want you to try.

    Rape can be very very traumatic. Living with the trauma of rape can create PTSD. Rape survivors can engage in various coping mechanisms, such as, alcohol and drug use, self-harm (cutting), over eating, etc. Trey’s rape and his suicidal depression cannot be delinked. It is not has easy for a man to find a safe space in which to discuss being raped as if probably is for a woman. This seems to be one of the motivations for publishing the suicide note; to put the issue of male rape survivors on the table. Unfortunately some of the readers want to bush it off the table

  5. Alchemist. From gods lips to your fingers my friend.

  6. wellokaythen says:

    Tough call. I think publishing a suicide note does do a little to promote suicide. It at least adds fuel to the fire. I’d resist publishing the note in its entirety, just like I would resist showing videos produced by terrorist kidnappers or Al Qaeda propaganda videos. Such publicity tends to encourage even more of the same kind of publicity. It’s giving people a model for going out in a blaze of glory.

    Then again, if we’re going to prevent young people from committing suicide, we need to know what they’re feeling, and maybe their last words could be a warning to others. Publishing such a note just might move someone to get help or try to help someone else.

    The dilemma is a very common one – how to explain without excusing. Or, how to take some meaning from someone’s death without rationalizing someone’s death.

    Perhaps a paraphrase or brief excerpt is the best compromise. Their words won’t become famous, but the basic ideas will be public.

    A related question is what counts as a “suicide note.” The last entry in a journal, the last e-mail sent, the last phone conversation, etc., may have hints about what’s going to happen, but they may not be suicide notes, per se.

  7. I’m now on my 3rd attempt to get a comment posted, but, because I am so verbose, and so moved by this whole story, I am compelled to write a lot. However, there must be a timer or something that keeps deleting my words after a certain length of time. So, I’m typing as quickly as I can.
    I will just say that I think that it’s appropriate, fair, and kind enough to say that Trey would most definitely want us to radically change and/or revise WHAT WE DO IN RESPONSE TO A PERSON’S SEXUAL ASSAULT. He’d want us to be as compassionate, and as determined as can be to break our necks, so to speak, to get a person the psychological help that they want and so deserve.
    If we don’t learn ANYTHING from Trey’s story and suicide, and that of many others, please, let it be that when a person has something as serious as a sexual assault or other trauma, we owe it to our fellow human being to find them the very best psychological help, as fast as we can.
    May Trey’s light and love shine down on us, and may we forever learn from his pain. We’ve got to learn that the sole purpose of our being on earth is to help, serve, and love one another as if it matters more than anything else. Because it does………………..

  8. Well said tj. Just when I was ready to stop following good men project. You have proven some are listening.

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