True Story



The other day my teacher asked a question during class, “Does anybody know what happened last Thursday at the Merchandise Mart? Has anybody heard anything?” Almost in unison the class of intrigued students replied, “No, why what happened?”

My teacher began to explain a scene that seemed right out of a movie…”There were ambulances and fire trucks scouring the streets on N. Orleans & around the building, back and forth; it seemed as if they couldn’t find what they were looking for.” She proceeded to tell us somebody, a man if I recall correctly, jumped … The class gasped! She continued and pleaded her concern… “I just wanted to know if anyone heard anything, I want to know if they’re ok or what happened….?”

Annoyed at the reality of this, I spoke up, “Unfortunately Mrs. K you’re not going to hear anything.” Confused, “Why is that?” she asked.

I proceeded to explain to her and to the class, “unless the suicide or suicide attempt is tied to a social cause, ie. bullying, murder-suicide, suicide by cop, or involves a prominent person in the community, like a celebrity, a socialite, or a city or government official – it’s not news worthy. If it does not have the ability to be sensationalized then media won’t touch it!”

I posed a challenge to the class to think of one reported suicide outside of the variables I mentioned.

She immediately did a little digging, clicking away at her desktop and replied, “you’re right and you know what else I found? It’s an unspoken rule in reporting that news reporters don’t discuss/report suicide.”

At this point I was on a roll. “Of course,” I replied, because the majority of society thinks that if you talk about suicide it will put the idea in others heads, as if it’s a contagious disease you can catch. It will make others curious and intrigued or give ideas of how to attempt. It shelters the family and loved ones so they don’t feel ashamed and stigmatized.” All of which is completely false and very disheartening to imagine.

That statement left my teacher and class stunned! This began another discussion of why this particular reasoning doesn’t sense and further stigmatizes mental health.

Consider this:
If you don’t talk about mental health or put a spotlight on suicide, how do you try and prevent it?

Is it bad to report a true story? Will it affect the parents, family or community negatively?

Does not talking about mental health make it go away?

Does this make the many victims suicide leaves behind feel alone?

How do you keep people informed and knowledgeable about preventative measures if mental health is not discussed?

How do you start the dialogue to talk about mental health if no one will discuss it?

Does this diminish how many people are truly affected by mental health?

Tragically a day later, Robin Williams committed suicide.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Robin Robinson

    It is a very difficult call on reporting suicides, similar to not mentioning street gangs by name. Cops say the gangs feel empowered if we do. I’m not sure those in danger of taking their own lives would consider whether or not the general public would hear about it. Fact is, I’m not sure about anything they might be thinking or you say, it’s just not talked about and therefore not understood. Things do change though. Not so long ago serious assaults and even killings might not be reported if police called it “domestic”. If we knew better, we’d do better.

  • Troy Hightower

    Been diagnosed with BPD almost 20 years ago. However I never acknowledged it.. acted like I never heard it nor did I do anything to find out more about it. Thank you B.Marshall. .. Thanks

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