In the most recent episode of the hit FOX series Glee, closeted homosexual jock Dave Karofsky (played by Max Adler) faces an upheaval of his life when his sexuality gets out. Tears streaming, Karofsky realized that he had had enough. He groomed himself, dressed up, and did the only thing he could to stop the pain: He climbed a chair and hanged himself from the ceiling.
Karofsky’s suicide attempt was unsuccessful.
The story is not foreign to me, as it has glaring similarities to my own story of 16 months ago. Like him, I reached a breaking point where life’s demands and pressures were simply too much. In similar fashion, I primped myself and proceeded to make what I understood to be my final decision: to end everything.
Unlike Karofsky, my suicide attempt wasn’t because of anything to do with my sexuality, nor did I try to hang myself. More importantly, my struggle with suicide didn’t start the day of my attempt and wasn’t over by the time the next week rolled around. (I also didn’t have a jaunty musical montage taking place when I tried to kill myself, but I digress.)
My suicide attempt wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment mistake made after a bad day, as Karofsky’s was; it was the pinnacle of weeks of anguish and despair that rendered my defenses practically non-existent. Much like 90% of the victims of suicide out there, my attempt was because of an underlying illness, not directly as a result of an environmental factor. In fact, next to children under 14, the high school demographic (15-19) represents the group least affected by suicide in the United States.
Contrary to the agenda driven by the media, evidence suggests that gay teen suicide is no more frequent or tragic that suicide by non-gay teens. In spite of hugely exaggerated numbers formed by using already faulty statistics, the media has attempted to claim that suicide among gay youths is an epidemic, when it simply isn’t true. Heck, Glee even included a shameless plug to Lady Gaga’s yet-to-launch ‘youth empowerment’ foundation, despite a number of established organizations dealing with mental illness, suicide and bullying that could have been promoted. Suicide is the true tragedy; the reason is not important.
In the case of Dave Karofsky, he read a few mean messages on Facebook, tried to kill himself, and was discharged from the hospital 72 hours later with a clean bill of health surrounded by people who love him and care for him. The transition back to reality is hardly as simple. As a suicide survivor, your every move is watched, there are whispers wherever you go, and there are a large number of people who hold those who have attempted suicide in deep contempt. Beyond that, it takes more than three days–anywhere from months to a lifetime, in reality–to overcome the root of one’s suicide attempt.
What the suicide arc on Glee teaches teenagers is not that suicide is never the option, but rather that acting on the impulse to end one’s life carries no consequences and will result in a flurry of flowers and hugs without adding another burden to an already stress-filled life. The only thing harder than struggling over whether or not to end your life is attempting to move on from a failed attempt. Is it worth it? Absolutely. But to eliminate the post-attempt reality that suicide survivors face, as Glee has, presents a despicably hollow and false picture of mental illness.