Suicide. To take one's own life. Youth suicide. To commit suicide. The phrases hit me hard and fast. They have a painful, shocking, depressing meaning that angers and upsets me. They bring back memories one would rather forget. Some of the greatest and most famous men and women in history have committed suicide, most in the face of defeat or dishonor. But what of youth suicide? My own country, Australia, is the unofficial youth suicide capital of the world. Why unofficial? Because, thankfully, suicides and their statistics are not reported in the press to avoid copycat acts. This also means, however, that the issue of youth suicide has not been addressed adequately by the community and the "secret" problem still persists. She would have been a senior this year. She should have been looking forward to graduation. She could have been a great woman. Instead, another life was cut short. Imagine being the one who finds a friend or relative dead by his or her own hand. What does one think and do? Suicide can be difficult to understand for those left behind. There are no murderers to blame, no negligence, no disease. The person ultimately responsible is the victim. Why would one contemplate suicide? To end it all. To end suffering? Hurt? Pain? Mental torture? Depression? To be with one's God? To rest peacefully? I myself know how tempting such thoughts can be. But suicide is wrong. Life must go on. Many successful people have talked of past periods of severe depression when they seriously considered suicide. They had not thought life could get better. But it did. We never know what life holds for us. Suicide should not be an alternative. One must hang in there. Better times will come soon. Perhaps tomorrow. Perhaps next week or month or year or even later. But when it does come you will be thankful you hung in there. I spoke to my friend for the last time in April. She was still upset and shaken by her study abroad experience last fall. ("Unfortunately, my experience wasn't as good as I'd hoped.") She had become sick ("weak and dehydrated") due to heat exhaustion and was hospitalized for a month. Although she still wanted to complete her studies and receive full credit, her doctors forced her to return home to the U.S. in early October. Resuming classes at Penn last spring, she found it hard to readjust. When she instead decided to take the semester off to work, she seemed in a better frame of mind. She said she enjoyed what she was doing and looked forward to summer classes. I can now only guess what was going through her mind at the time. I suspect she again found it difficult to readjust to academics and wasn't able to concentrate during the summer term. In her suicide note she cited "depression." She perhaps thought she could never fit back in. Very sad. I never met her. We were e-mail buddies. She was like an older sister giving advice and answering my many questions: Sweet, affectionate, thoughtful, considerate and helpful in her replies. We had planned to meet several times, but it wasn't to be. If we had, I may have been able to see behind her brave words. I never got an opportunity to thank her in person. I don't know her family or even any of her friends. They probably don't even know of me. It would have been too easy for me to erase her from my memory, for I didn't even have a face to put to her e-mails. But, she touched me. By becoming my first friend at Penn, she will always live on inside of me. I know others who have contemplated suicide. Close friends. I have spoken to them, tried to convince them of the folly of their arguments. And whether because of me or others, or even themselves, they have always decided against suicide. For that I am thankful. That is why her death shocked me all the more. I wished I had stayed in touch with her during the rest of April and May. I wished I had realized that she was seriously depressed. Perhaps I, or someone else, could have made a difference. Perhaps. The last words she wrote to me were: "I must go, but I hope all turns out well for you. Good luck in everything:)." I know things will turn out well for me, thanks in part to her. If only she knew that. If only. Life at a competitive place like Penn can be lonely. The pressure and atmosphere can be depressing. We should not shrug our shoulders and say that people like my friend did what they wanted and are better off dead. We are all of the same great university. We should stand united together. We should take care of each other.Comments powered by Disqus
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