I’ve previously stated that the dialogue about suicide needs to be started. That it’s taboo & shouldn’t be, & that we should find a way to eliminate the shame in talking about suicide. I still stand by this statement. Suicide, like anything else, is a symptom of illness. It says a lot about our society that we can openly discuss sores, snot & rashes as a result of an illness but we cannot fathom discussing suicide at the dinner table. I find it difficult to discuss. I really do, it’s something that has changed my life. Because of this, I am a supporter of anything that facilitates discussion about mental health & suicide. Previously, it has been something that is not to be mentioned. A real no-no. You’d have people turning up their noses at you & whispering behind their hands about the audacity of such a subject of discussion. That’s changing, & it’s a very positive thing.
A couple of days ago the “#ZeroTrollerance” hashtag reared its head on Facebook. On further investigation, it seems Jules Lund did a radio special with some celebrities to discuss his approach to social media “trolls”. Lund’s advice to just block “trolls” online is probably one of the most logical & level headed responses I have seen lately. You can literally stop it with one button. But no doubt the passing of Charlotte Dawson has influenced this whole paradigm shift in the discussion of mental health. I do not wish to discuss her death, it’s been done enough. I also don’t have the right, I did not know her. I do not know anything about her life, & so am not able to draw intelligent conclusions about the topic. Her passing has magnified the role cyber bullying contributes to mental health issues. Magnified a great deal. Herein lies the problem.
We all should have respect for everyone. We are all human. Skin, flesh & bone. We are all one & the same, pardon the cliché. This is why it’s important to be respectful, kind, & tolerant as much as we possibly can. It’s something I struggle with daily, I am no Saint. I try to practice what I preach. Sometimes it’s fucking hard when someone is driving ridiculously slow & you’re late. But really, when you step outside of your own little universe where you are the sun & that dickhead is Uranus, it doesn’t matter. At all.
Rapid digitization of everything & the anonymity this facilitates, co-mingled with widespread human obsession with social media has borne a new type of bullying. ‘Cyber-bullying’. I cannot deny that respect is lacking on the internet. I’ve experienced it myself. Nor can I deny that it’s sad. It just seems to be a result of giving someone internet access & the ability to hide themselves. We have to expect it. It seems almost… Natural. Dare I say it. It was always going to happen. But the media has drawn a CAUSAL link between cyber-bullying & suicide. As a result, everyone is fighting cyber-bullying as though their lives depend on it. Seriously. As though if we don’t stop it thousands of people may lose their lives. Some may, but it’s melodramatic at best by the media to think that most suicides are a result of bullying.
This is simplistic. This demeans mental health, purely by ignoring the myriad of factors that contribute to it. This, I believe, is not a GENUINE way to prevent suicides. Should people rally against “trolls” (I hate that term). Yes. If they want to. If they feel passionate about trying to eradicate them. Will this reduce suicide statistics on the whole? I’m not sure. Mindframe, using statistics taken from the ABS, say that roughly 2,320 people die by suicide yearly in Australia. 76% of those deaths are male. The narrative told by the media would have us believe most are female, & victims of vitriolic online bullying. The statistics compared to media reporting is somewhat worrying, to say the least. To convince people that suicide is caused by nasty words ALONE is unfair. Suicide is complex. Trying to understand it is a daily burden on those left behind. Trying to understand ones own mental health problems is a metaphorical minefield of heavy shit. So simplifying either of these things seems to be quite offensive. I hope this doesn’t seem dramatic, but I am offended by it. Accepting & understanding the role mental illness plays in suicide is important. Simplifying it isn’t correct. It isn’t fair. It isn’t right.
The ‘zero tolerance’ approach like ‘Charlotte’s Law’ irks me. It’s like a modern day, cyber witch hunt. “Throw them in jail”. “Let them rot”. “They are scum, they should get what they deserve”. Hello? Sound familiar at all? We’re fighting cyber bullying with cyber bullying, are we? The people who feel validated from hurting others are more than likely hurting too. So, we’re going to publicly shame them? Slander them? & try to pass legislation to make it actionable to punish these people? This is illogical. I’m not denying the seriousness of what they do, I argue that CONDEMNING them is too simplistic of a solution also. They are people with underlying causes & reasons as to why they do what they do. Perhaps they suffer from mental illness also. Perhaps they are clinically depressed. It’s all too complicated, intricate & intertwined for me to believe a zero tolerance approach & legislation is the solution.
Encouraging respect is important. Letting people know cyber bullying isn’t okay? Yeah, that’s important too. Simplifying suicide down to the general premise that “being mean might make someone take their life. Don’t do it EVER or we will PUBLICLY CONDEMN YOU” is worrying. Suicide is complex. It deserves respectful dialogue about the MANY underlying causes & factors. Perhaps cyber bullying & suicide have a relationship in some circumstances, but we would be better off separating the two & tackling them as issues in & of themselves. So many people take their lives for a great deal of other reasons. Shouldn’t we acknowledge this & address them too?
SANE Australia helpline
1800 18 SANE (7263) or www.sane.org
Lifeline Service Finder
beyondblue: the national depression initiative
1300 22 4636 (1300 bb info) or www.beyondblue.org.au