I WROTE: An amazing, tragic and brilliant letter:
“Trey Malone’s Suicide Note” http://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/lead-a-good-life-everyone-trey-malones-suicide-note/
HE WROTE: As someone who came very close to committing suicide at age 17 (tried twice and rope broke twice), the family and you guys should think twice about publishing a letter like this.
I believe there may be better ways to get awareness to the rape issue, which is a serious issue. My concern is that most of the readers of this letter will be kids who are googling suicide note and reading this on paper creates a false legitimacy to suicide as an answer. We all know suicides happen in clusters and it scares me to think how many other suicides have or will occur because of this poor guy. I remember reading an article in rolling stone about Kurt Cobain when I was 17. There was a quite in it that I think he either said or was in his suicide note that said “its better to burn out than fade away”. I latched on to it and decided I was going to kill myself. I went through three attempts over the next three weeks. I obviously had a lot of stuff going wrong but I wonder about the impact of this article. How many other kids read it and succeeded?
I love and respect you but I think it is a huge mistake to ever refer to a suicide note as amazing and brilliant. Not because the letter was not, but because it will have final consequences.
I WROTE: I understand and respect your concern here. And you are perhaps right that my word choice was inappropriate.
The decision to publish this letter was not something that we/I did without thinking very long and hard about. I was made aware of the story last summer through my niece who was Trey’s high school classmate and have been in touch with the family off an on since then. To understand in the end why the family decided they wanted to publish the letter you should read Trey’s mother’s motivation.
While publishing a random suicide note would be truly pointless and cause only potential harm. In this case what changes the dynamic is the issue of sexual abuse in general which Trey’s note addresses directly, the misconception that men are not sexually abused, and the now big issue at Amherst College specifically about how they, and similar schools, have dealt with victims of abuse over time. Read: http://amherststudent.amherst.edu/?q=article/2012/10/24/articles-spark-debate-about-handling-sexual-misconduct-cases and the original piece at Amherst that sparked the controversy: http://amherststudent.amherst.edu/?q=article/2012/10/17/account-sexual-assault-amherst-college
We obviously did put a label on the piece warning readers that it is triggering to say the least. But in the end we felt that it important to publish such an important statement of the impact sexual abuse at Amherst with a male victim, at the request of Trey’s family to do so for those same reasons.
Let me know if that makes sense and whether or not it would be okay for me to publish this exchange on a no-names basis since I am sure if you have these concerns others will have the same ones.
HE WROTE: I understand and I know you are taking seriously. I guess I am just in a different camp. I feel like suicide is the story hear and not rape.
I believe suicide is a bigger problem than rape for three reasons. 1. a suicide victim doesn’t get a chance to ever do anything else with their life where a rape victim gets another chance; 2) when someone commits suicide, I believe it leads to others also committing suicide, thus it has a viral impact, which I am not sure is the case with rape. 3). When it comes to a man being raped I would think there is less frequency of that then suicide. So for all these reasons I think publishing a story with a suicide note could have the potential to accelerate the suicide problem, which if I am right about number 2 and 3 could cause more damage than good. I am not saying this definitively- I am not an expert on suicide prevention I am just one of the lucky ones where my attempts failed and I got to get a new perspective.
I would also question anyone that attributes his suicide entirely to being raped and ignored. This has happened to many people and is tragic, but they don’t all end in suicide. I would bet that there were other factors going on- either drugs and alcohol abuse or mental health issues.
This whole story is tragic. My heart goes to his family. I would just caution those that are trying to increase awareness for men be raped to tread very carefully when using this story to get people’s attention.
I am also glad to have this exchange. Suicide awareness is something that I have thought many times about as a cause I am passionate. I have not gotten involved with any non profits but am now considering seeking some out.
Feel free to publish any of this exchange with out names. Sorry for typos or bad grammar. Writing on my phone in house full of wife and three kids battling stomach flu. That sucks but can’t say I don’t feel grateful after remembering from where I came.
Obviously publishing Trey’s letter has been an agonizing decision for the GMP staff. In the end we did so in the belief that it was important to be honest about this story and to respect the wishes of Trey’s immediate family first and foremost, particularly his mother who wrote in the comment section:
“Trey was my son. We published his letter because I know that Trey would have wanted his message to be heard. I can’t help but be so saddened, however, every time I read his words. The sexual assault battered him, and the lack of support from the administration at Amherst defeated him, taking away any fight Trey had left. When I read the fist lines of Trey’s letter, I get a glimpse of the novel he will never get to write. He will never advocate for those who would have been buoyed by his goodness and sense of righteousness. Trey was an amazing brother, friend, son and grandson. We all miss his intelligence, his grace, and his sarcasm. No human power was able to help my child. We tried.
I get up early every morning, and when I go outside, I look up to the bright stars and I speak to my boy. His light shines through in beams of light from those stars. When I get too sad, I close my eyes to see him happy, standing in a bay in the beautiful blue green water that he loved so much as a child.”
We also consulted with the Chief Program Officer of Samaritans, Inc., which is the leading expert in the state. He told us:
– The media guidelines for not publishing suicide notes stemmed from days of print media, when such note were harder to find. Now, he said, anyone can realistically google “suicide notes” and find something if they are at that stage and that is what they are looking for.
– That said, he said most guidelines suggest not putting the story on the front page or front and center. Don’t focus on the methods used for suicide, as that can be triggering for some.
– Always put resources for where to go for help at the bottom of any post that talks about suicide. His suggestion for a phone number was the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK, which is a relay system — if you are in Connecticut it will connect you to the closest resource in CT, but if that is busy it will switch over to Boston — wherever it can connect you to that is both closest to your location and gets someone on the phone the quickest.
– He agreed that what we are doing overall is great — and he applauded our desire to wanting to do it responsibly. He said that finding ways to overcome the stigma of suicide or even the stigma of talking about suicide is important. For men, in particular, it’s even more important — because men kill themselves at a higher rate than females but ask for help less. He said what we have been saying for a while — that finding multiple ways into the discussion are really important. Combine personal narratives with fact-based articles with thoughtful discussions of the underlying causes — depression, alcohol and drugs, abuse, sexual violence.
President Biddy Martin of Amherst College wrote an open letter to the Amherst community this afternoon in response to our publishing Trey’s letter. She concluded:
The pain and finality of Trey’s suicide eclipse all other concerns, yet I call on us all to reflect on what we knew, accept that we cannot know everything, and learn from this horrible loss. The literature on suicide tells us that talking about suicidal thoughts or feelings helps to alleviate those feelings and, yet, the majority of students who contemplate suicide never tell anyone. Please make sure that you and those around you have the support you need. Pay close attention to your own feelings and behaviors as well as those of your friends and fellow students. I urge you to seek our help and ask you to encourage others to do the same.
If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK
photo fleur-design / flickr