These are comments by JJ and Joanna Schroeder on the post “Lead a Good Life, Everyone: Trey Malone’s Suicide Note“.
I am both a victim of sexual assault, and a mental illness social work administrator. I appreciate the sentiment in Trey’s letter, but I went through a very similar situation where nobody helped me, yet I found the strength to carry on because I independently sought treatment and therapy.
I feel that it’s dangerous to use this suicide note as an example or message to anyone, other than as a warning to people dealing with severe depression. I realize we’re trying to change society’s perspective on sexual assault, but you’re listening to and taking advice from a man who was just about to kill himself, and went through with it. Just think about that. There’s fundamentally something wrong with that. A healthy person would find another way out, difficult as it may be.
His message could have been heard without the pain his decision brought on so many others—and yes, it was his own decision. Suicide is, in many cases, an act of power. It’s the only great sweeping gesture many feel they have left. Much like self-mutilation victims often believe it’s the only way they can feel. But it’s more a symptom of mental illness than anything that has happened to them.
To his family, I’m very sorry for your loss. I’m sorry Trey was in such great pain. But there was help. There was therapy. There were all sorts of avenues that Trey could have taken that would have helped him put this behind him. He made this escape because he had no coping mechanism. Depression is a serious illness, and his goodbye letter tells me far more about what mental illness does to a person than what rape does to a person. There is strength in building yourself back up from being a victim, yet strength is the one thing people don’t have with severe depression, which I believe Trey suffered from far more than his sexual assault.
For all those attempting to reform society’s views on sexual crimes, I’m not downplaying the importance of that whatsoever. I am, however, asking you to help reform society’s views on mental illness as well.
Joanna Schroeder says:
Thanks so much for your comment. We agree, mental health issues are absolutely central to the tragic story of Trey Malone’s suicide. Ultimately, Trey’s suicide was prompted by multiple factors. As outsiders, all we know about those factors are what he has told us. In this letter, he tells us what mattered to him. Because it mattered to him, it mattered to us to simply let him speak. But in no way do we take a position that anyone was responsible for Trey’s death. That is not for us to say.
We never positioned this letter as an attempt to raise awareness of any particular agenda. For us, this is the loss of a young man full of potential, who had a message he wanted people to hear. The message is profound and multi-faceted. We also considered exactly what you’re saying before we printed it and chose to let the letter speak for itself, with no commentary or context aside from the trigger warning above and a summation of the reason we were printing it—which is just to raise the issues Trey wanted heard.
We also very seriously considered the impact of publishing a suicide note. First and foremost, we believe that Trey could have done MORE good if he’d stayed on this Earth, and we wish we had the opportunity to work with him. No doubt he would have been a force for good in the world. But being as that option is gone, we consulted foremost suicide support resources to be sure that publishing the note was a responsible choice.
You can learn more about that here, in the words of our Founder Tom Matlack.
Ultimately, you are exactly right that mental health issues MUST be addressed, and as we often discuss here, we live in a society where men are told to toughen up, suck it up, man up, sack up and shut up. We tell our boys this from when they are very small. There is no way for us to support boys and men who are struggling when we believe that their struggles make them weak.
Trey was not weak. But he needed help. He asked for help, and he felt he didn’t receive enough. For those of us in a society that shames men who are struggling with mental health issues, WE are the weak ones for being so afraid of the emotions of men. WE are the failures for not recognizing and placing the utmost importance upon mental health issues for both men and women. And in turn, it is up to ALL of us to create a new societal view of mental health.
We wouldn’t shame a person for having Cancer, and we shouldn’t shame anyone for having the disease of depression or for having been assaulted. By publishing Trey’s letter, we only hope that his words remind us of how precious each person’s life is. We hope that it serves as reminder to all of us that shame has no place in any aspect of mental health—be it supporting those with depression (or other emotional challenges), suicidal thoughts, or in talking with survivors of sexual assault or abuse.
I hope this has addressed some of your concerns. Believe me, JJ, we are on the same page with you and are doing our very best to try to make the world understand.
And man, we wish we Trey were still here so we could have walked shoulder-to-shoulder with him on these issues.
If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK.
Photo credit: Flickr / xJason.Rogersx