Media influence could impact suicide rates

Suicide rates are up in America, and the biggest factor may be the widespread, constant reporting of self-killing — unintentionally making suicide look like a popular and reasonably effective escape.

I’ve known a lot of people who have killed themselves. In fact, five people in my extended family have done it. I was named after one of them.

We all get ideas in our head from many sources. I was driving on 25th Street in Terre Haute at age 17 when the car in front of me veered to the right, straddled a brick wall and slammed into a tree. I stopped my car, ran to the driver’s door and told her not to move.

Why did I tell her that? I had seen a TV show a few days earlier in which a rescue team stopped a car from falling off the top edge of a drawbridge. They told the driver, “Don’t move!”

So that’s what I did, as if I had been programmed. But I didn’t follow all the directions.

A sheriff’s deputy who arrived on the scene said, “Whose car is that?” He pointed to a strangely parked car in the oncoming lane.

I looked way down the road and said, “That’s mine.”

“Well, move it,” he said.

I was so embarrassed, and I had done all that thankless heroic work. It was no help at all, which is why emergency professionals want everybody to stay out of their way.

That’s the potential influence of media and other people on our behavior. We are susceptible.

All the people I’ve known who took their own lives have done so because of unhappiness. They felt they had failed to find true love or recognition, or they suffered immeasurable regret or a feeling of plain emptiness.

Suicide victims are basically pardoned by society for taking their lives. But did you know that many families are furious with loved ones for leaving them? It is a terrible and terribly painful mess. It is unending agony.

There does appear to be a point of no return for people who firmly decide to end their lives. I want to get people around them to catch them before that point of no return – where the mind is finally incurably pessimistic about hopes for the future and about solutions for turning things around.

If you are thinking of taking your life, you have a responsibility to look reality in the eye. All the reports you hear of suicides are actually stories of issues that went unaddressed, not stories of rapturous departure from a world of woe into a place of peace.

The very torture you want to escape is what you cast on the people who care about you. No matter how neatly you think you can leave this world, you will leave a horrifying mess. Wake up! Let other people help you wake up!

Don’t even think you can do this alone. Get professional help. There’s plenty of it. Make the call to a suicide hotline.

You can also get the story I covered of one of my family. It’s called “Before You Kill Yourself,” a short read listed on Amazon.

The world will not be a better place without you. Stick around and accept the immense help that is available.

Max T. Russell of New Palestine writes for the international business intelligence and nonprofit communities.