The topic of suicide was never something I really thought about. I knew that it happened and I never really understood why, but my train of thought ended there. Over the past couple of months that has changed greatly in my life. I have been confronted again and again with an instance of suicide that hits painfully close to home. I still don’t really understand why it happens, but the topic has plagued my thoughts for the past couple of months as I have tried to make some kind of sense of the matter. The hardest part for me is that in every single instance the person took their life, it wasn’t who you think it would be. We have this idea of what people look and act like when they are suicidal and when they take their own life. While it is not any less heart breaking when someone who fits into our preconceived ideas about people who commit suicide take their own life, it does make it somewhat easier for people to make sense of. As I reflect on the instances that have happened around me I am confronted with the scary idea that it can be anyone, even the people that you would have never imagined to take their own life.
One of the cases that has happened near me is public knowledge—it involved a school shooting. In October, a freshman boy at Marysville Pilchuck High School in Washington State shot and killed four of his best friends before taking his own life. Typically when we see school shooters they are “loners” who don’t have many friends and are usually bullied. Because this stereotype has been seen repeatedly it had just become the norm. But in the case of Jaylen Fryberg, the norm didn’t fit. He was popular, voted the freshman class homecoming king, had plenty of good friends, and a good family. So what do we make of instances like this? Depression and suicide don’t fit in nice little boxes. Anyone can suffer from depression and anyone can have suicidal thoughts or tendencies. These are not experiences reserved for a small category of people. I am aware that it is scary to think about, but I think it is important that we do. We all need to be aware of our mental health and the mental health of those around us, because it is something that affects us all. Maybe in different ways, but all of us nonetheless.
Kylie Kerker is a freshman at Syracuse university and new to Active Minds. She’s studying biology and Neuroscience and hopes to study the biological basis of mental illnesses. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on instagram @krekrek5.