Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In the Shadow of Death...

As time ticks down for me to embark on following one of my dreams it should be a cheerful time. But it's not. I should be excited and elated. I am in part, but not wholeheartedly. It's difficult to be so happy about something in the wake of so much sadness across the nation. Sadness in the form of so many people younger than myself who will never get to experience so many of the wondrous things the world has to offer.

There have been an alarming number of suicides, predominantly among teenagers, in the past two months involving gay individuals. The most recent happened on Friday when 14-year-old Brandon Bitner of Pennsylvania ran in front of a truck to end his life. This follows a long line of other widely-publicized deaths: Tyler Clementi, Justin Aaberg, Seth WalshCarl Walker-Hoove, Raymond Chase, and many others. Though teenage bullying was often the culprit there have been others, such as 26-year-old gay youth activist Joseph Jefferson, who had other unknown motivations.

It may seem to reflect an increase in gay youth suicides though it's more likely that media exposure is simply alerting us more to the problem. Benjamin Radford, editor of Skeptical Enquirer, went so far as to say that the numbers are grossly inflated and exaggerated and based on outdated information, even quoting Joel Best from his book Damned Lies and Statistics. (I find it astoundingly obtuse to say that statistics lie... and back up your argument with statistics.) Personally, I don't care if the number is ten or 10,000 suicides. It shouldn't be happening period.

Many people have made a stand on bullying and suicide prevention lately. I want to make it a point to do the same. Teenage bullying is not unknown to any of us. Most of us have suffered from it and survived. But regardless of age, bullying is a real issue that needs to be addressed. Bullying is a cowardly act based on fear and insecurity. It's not okay to taunt, attack, and harass someone for being different. And it's not okay to sit idly by while people attack others for who they are. You never know how far that one act will go or to what lengths it might drive the victim.

In dealing with the paranormal aspect of the world, you're surrounded by death. But it still leaves a major impact. And I'm not so far removed from understanding suicide from all angles. It took me a whole year to come to terms with the suicide of a college friend Chris Stutler who never lived to see his 30th birthday. I once talked a complete stranger (who turned out to be a friend of a friend) out of killing himself. And in my own life I'm a survivor of a failed suicide attempt during my early 20s. I know how it feels to want everything to be over. I also know that sometimes it's only after you do something that you wonder what you just did (and why you did it).

But there is always something more to live for. It's nearly impossible to accomplish everything you could possibly imagine in the span of one lifetime. Even worse is never trying, not doing it for fear of being unpopular, or simply giving up on everything life has to offer. Never allow someone else's narrow-minded view of the world to color your life and dreams. The experience of life is what you make of it and what you create of it. If you feel the need to end everything talk to someone first. You are never alone. Life is never so bad that it can't get better. Don't let a bully cheat you out of your own chance of happiness. Believe in yourself and chase your dreams, whatever they may be.

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