Media: memorializing a life does not mean we're glorifying suicide

I know that people accuse the media of “glorifying” suicide.

I have heard people say that, by talking about suicide, the idea is put in people’s heads who wouldn’t normally think about it.

I have also heard people say that, when the media publicizes or memorializes a person who lost his or her life to suicide, this makes someone more likely to do it. It gives someone who has lost the will to live reason to think, “At least I’ll be remembered for something.”

I am a reporter, so I know firsthand what people say about the media. I actually received a voicemail to my work phone today, saying I was "cruel" and disrupted "peace on earth" by covering a suicide awareness forum held at St. Joseph School in Orion Township Monday night. That was one of many stories I have written about suicides or memorializing people who have lost their lives to suicide since I started my career at the Oakland Press. 

And, in no way, am I glorifying the act.

The truth is, I believe every person who dies deserves to be memorialized, and I try to find any excuse I can to write “in memory” articles celebrating the life of someone who has passed away.  Once someone dies, that’s it. Every life makes a difference, no matter the cause of death, and I think each person deserves to be remembered for the life they lived by more than just the dash in-between the years on their headstone.

When someone commits suicide, this final memorializing article in the newspaper is the last article that will be written about them. They won’t have a wedding announcement in the paper, a picture of their new baby or grandchild, an article about the opening of their new business or any other lifetime accomplishments. 

There are so many other things in life to be remembered for than suicide, a memorializing that the person won't be alive to see. And an article cut out of the newspaper on the last page of the scrapbook of your life is not it.

I’ve had that low point. I have been there. My junior year of high school, the boy I liked passed a note about me around the whole school, making fun of me behind my back. As soon as I found out, I faked being sick that day and left school early. That night, everyone, from friends to acquaintances to people I didn’t even know, had heard about that note and was messaging me, asking me about it. I never wanted to set foot in that school again. 

I could have ended my life right then. But soon, students forgot completely about that note. If I would have committed suicide, sure, I would have been talked about, and maybe my name would have been in the newspaper too. But now, I get to see my name in the newspaper almost every day. And if I would have taken my life, well, that never would have happened. 

I know that people who commit suicide aren't in their right mindset when it happens. They don't see a way out of their current situation. But please, when that happens, talk to someone. Ask someone to be there for you when you don't trust yourself to be alone. And listen to that little voice in the back of your head saying, "If you do this, that's it. There's no going back."

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