Today is anoter “ugh” day for me so coming up with something completely new to write is out of the question. Instead, I’ve decided to move some more of my writing from twitter and storify to here. It’s a pretty sad topic so I’ll issue a trigger warning for talk of mental illness, depression, suicide, and suicidal ideation now.
The way mental illness, suicide, and suicidal ideation is treated on social media is disgusting and indicative of how society as a whole treats it. There are so many examples of people ranging from chan trolls to “activists” being absolutely horrible about mental health. An example of activists being really bad on mental health and suicide in particular was, regrettably, the Sandra Bland case.
A lot of people will disagree with me on this, but the way a lot of people spoke about what happened was not okay. There was a lot of “she was so happy”, “she had a new job”, “she had everything going for her” going around. It was so disheartening to see such smart people spreading around the same myths that keep people from seeking help.
It was, at the time, some of the most triggering stuff I’d ever seen and it came from people and a place I wasn’t expecting. The worst, at least for me, were the people who claimed that it was “physically impossible” for her to hang herself in the cell. After I saw that, I spent hours looking at pictures of the cell and imagining ways it could have happened.
[I wanna take a step back and reinforce the trigger warning for suicide and suicidal ideation. Things are about to get dark.]
When people are suicidal to the point that they plan or attempt, they can get really creative. One method is “suicide by cop”. So common and well known we have an actual name for it. The fact that this is so relatively easy to pull off speaks volumes about how violent policing is, especially when it comes to the mentally ill. That’s a discussion for a different day though.
When most people imagine hanging, they think of someone standing on a chair or stool and a noose hanging from the ceiling. That’s not the only way to do it. People with or who have had suicidal thoughts know this. People who haven’t don’t. So when people who haven’t been to that place don’t see the usual “tv tools” for suicide, they think it’s not possible & didn’t happen.
The other thing that bothered me was I got the feeling from people that if she did commit suicide, they wouldn’t have cared as much. There is a strong stigma, especially in the Black community, against mental illness and suicide. It’s viewed as a stain or blemish. People don’t want to admit that it’s possible for their loved ones to commit suicide because in their eyes it brings dishonor to the family.
That was the feeling that I got from many activists when people suggested that maybe she did commit suicide. Even if she did, that doesn’t let the police completely off the hook for her death. They are the ones that assaulted her. They are the ones that locked her up. They are the ones that left her alone. They are the ones that put her in that stressful situation.
They are the ones who are ultimately responsible for what happened because their actions triggered it and it happened on their watch. Many people refused to accept this scenario though because of the stigma against suicide. This stigma was, in my very humble opinion, definitely present in the “If I Die In Police Custody” tag that followed.
So many people was so sure they’d never commit suicide, but all I could think was “what about the rest of us?” What about the people who were already suicidal before being arrested? What about the people who would be triggered by being arrested? What about the people who honestly don’t know if they would commit suicide in police custody? What about the people who know they would? Do their lives not matter as much? Would we brush their deaths under the rug because it’s not as “clean cut” or “respectable”?
Suicide is a touchy subject. I know this. It’s even hard for me to find the words and write this down. That said, it’s something that must be addressed in a way that doesn’t humiliate, downplay or outright dismiss those who have dealt with it. Right now we are failing and because of our failure, people are suffering and dying. That’s not acceptable.
Chan trolls are always going to be horrible. It’s expected from them. That said, their ableism should still be called out. Liberals, progressives, and activists? Y’all are supposed to be better than this. More is expected of you, and right now you are not living up to that standard. You must strive to do better.