I don't follow sports. I didn't even know who Aaron Hernandez was, except for what I saw in the headlines regarding a murder trial. Then, just this past week, he was acquitted of some other murders, which I learned after I read the headline that he had committed suicide.
Sometimes I think that I just shouldn't look at the news anymore. I think that I should get off Facebook (and the Internet in general) and remain ignorant of what's going on in the world. But I reason with myself that I can't. I'm a writer. I need to know what's going on to write about it.
Also, I'm a human, and I care.
I need to know what's going on in the world to try to make sense of life.
But when I read about someone committing suicide, I question my mental health and my emotional balance. I question if it's good or bad for me to read the news.
As someone who has suffered from depression almost my entire life, seeing a headline about anyone’s suicide hits me hard, regardless of whether I knew the person or not.
Obviously, I feel great sadness for Hernandez and his family and friends. It’s true that I don’t know his background or much about the crimes he committed. That doesn’t matter to me. Who a person was or the crimes they committed doesn’t soften the blow for me. Some might argue that I would feel differently if he had murdered one of my family members, that perhaps I would feel vengeance instead. I don’t know.
And I don't know how I will feel if I see any headlines that say people are happy that he committed suicide, or that he's saved the taxpayers a lot of money. I don't think I can handle that.
Why? Why should I feel such heightened depression and confusion when a “celebrity” ends their life? Someone that I had no personal contact or connection to? I suppose it's all about me. Isn't that how it is to be human? We come from ourselves in everything we do — everything we feel and experience is seen through the lens of our lives.
For someone who suffers from depression and suicidal thoughts, a headline about somebody killing themselves can be triggering.
Why? For me, if I am in a massive bout of depression, I'm forced into imagining it's my own death.
It also makes suicide seem real and doable. Here’s someone else who did it. Someone that no one would have expected it from. Look, he's free now. The depressed mind sees the possibility of freedom by ending it all, through the example of another.
And Hernandez committed suicide after receiving "good" news. Psychologists explain that people most often don't commit suicide at the deepest levels of depression because they're too depressed even to have the energy to kill themselves, or to have the wherewithal to think through how to do it. It's when there's a slight lift from the depression for some reason; it's when there's some brief respite — a little crack of light that bounces off the angles of the psyche and gives that person the idea, the energy, and the mental clarity to plan.
I would not want my family to wake up and see the headline that I had committed suicide. No, there would be no headline. I'm not a celebrity; I've not been convicted of murder. There would be no great gnashing of teeth in public if I died.
The headline would only occur for my family and friends. I suppose it would be on Facebook. Maybe somebody would start a Go Fund Me page to raise funds for my funeral and to help my children cope without me.
But I won't let that happen to me.
How do I know? I can’t for sure, but after all the depression I've experienced in my life, the pits of deep despair I’ve struggled through, I've never attempted suicide. So I hope that's a good predictor of me never trying. And I have three children; I could not abandon them. Even though my mind goes there. Even though when I read a headline like "Aaron Hernandez Commits Suicide" I feel all kinds of confusion, depression, and inability to cope.
Thankfully, I know where to turn, and I have resources available. I know what to do when I recognize my heaviest depression’s signs. I am more aware and concerned about those around me suffering that might be feeling triggered and alone.
We all need to be mindful now of other people, other people we know who might be suicidal.
After a highly covered suicide in the news, be on alert for those whom you know and love who have suffered from depression. The news of somebody committing suicide can hit them hard for so many complicated reasons, and we need to be aware. Reach out to those who may need to be reminded they are loved today, and if you are the one who needs that reassurance, reach out to those who you know love you or any of the other resources that abound.
We are never alone.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Available 24 hours, every day.