Thursday, March 18, 2010

Who pulled the trigger?

My massage therapist told me the story of a 15-year old boy’s death by suicide. He was defending another boy in his school whom his classmates, including his girlfriend, were harassing about being gay. He got into a physical fight over it even though he had a physical injury himself. Afterward his classmates accused him of being gay because he had tried to protect the gay boy, and his girlfriend got on the bandwagon. She sent him a text calling him gay and told him he ought to kill himself. And, he took her up on it. He knew where his dad locked away his gun and he got a hatchet to break the lock. Then he pointed the gun to somewhere on his head, neck, or throat, took a picture of that, sent it off to his girlfriend, and then pulled the trigger.

I wrote this short poem about the event. My final question is the point. Who actually pulled the trigger? Who or what actually pulls the trigger on any suicidal action?

This Speaks for Itself
I don’t even know his name
and I mourn for him
dead at 15.
He shot himself with his dad’s gun
after his girlfriend
called him gay
and texted him to kill himself.
He took her up on it.
He sent her his photo
with the gun pointed at his throat
just before he pulled the trigger.
Or did she
with her malicious text
pull the trigger for him?

Kay Jamison said in her book Night Falls Fast that in most cases of young male suicides the loss of a love is a contributing factor – along with their age and bipolar disease. So, I could very well have accused my son Paul’s girlfriend of killing him. After all she left him for another man about two months before he killed himself. I could also put more blame on myself. I was concerned that he stopped taking his medicine and shared that concern to his girlfriend. I thought she might be able to persuade him to resume taking it. Instead she followed through on an earlier threat that should he ever stop his meds again, she would leave him. Did I trigger her action to leave him and inadvertently cause his death? Really I don’t suspect I did. I think she just found someone else and was looking for a way out. His not taking his meds anymore was that out. Plus she probably already knew by his behavior that he had stopped.

I don’t, however, absolve myself from all blame. There is plenty of blame to go around. If I ever get my memoir about this published, you’ll be able to read all about it there.

In the meantime, I’m very worried about the maliciousness of teenagers and pre-teenagers toward their peers and how text messaging has become a vehicle to carry out that maliciousness. And I think what we know is just the tip of the iceberg. We have really no idea how these young folks are relating to one another through their various social networks.

The young adult book and film genre is huge. Perhaps there is a way we can get to these young people through the films and books we create for them. There has got to be a way to let them know how permanent the effects of their actions are whether they are loving or mean. This 15-year old young man died uselessly. And, the after effects on his family and the young girl who goaded him on will last forever. I suspect, though I’ll never know for sure, my son’s girlfriend will always carry with her the fact that her actions probably triggered his death. I know I’ll carry around my own guilt forever as well.

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