Seven and a half years ago, on a beautiful, sunny June day, one of my longtime close friends hanged herself to death.
For Melissa’s close friends, life post-June 1, 2010 looked very different than it did in our carefree, mid-20s lives before she died. It always will be.
The thing about suicide is that it not only comes with the heart-crushing devastation of the death of someone close to you, but the horror of imagining what that person was going through on the day they ended their life. It comes with a million questions – many of which you’ll one day have to accept you’ll never have answers to – even years later. It comes with confusion, guilt, anger, blame and irrationality. It comes with anxiety you never knew you had in you. It comes with panic attacks in funeral homes and solo breakdowns at flower-filled graves.
Worst of all, it comes with the hollow feeling that there must have been something you could have done: warning signs you should have noticed, plans you shouldn’t have broken, time you should have taken, arguments you shouldn’t have had. And this lasts for years.
While every suicide is shocking and devastating (I’d like to stress that), I find hanging particularly traumatic and disturbing, given its violent and deliberate nature. In the months following, you can’t get the image of that person hanging there dead out of your head, even if you didn’t see it for yourself (and god help the one who found them – they’re scarred for life). Reminders of how they did it are everywhere – on the walls at Terroni on Adelaide St. in the art that decorates the walls, in the scarf you loop around your neck in the winter, in each nightmare and in every bathrobe belt you see.
Today, years later, they were found in the headlines about YouTube star Logan Paul, inspiring a flood of sadness, flashbacks and anger that has lasted all day.
With that said, my heart goes out to others who have been affected by YouTube star Logan Paul’s now-deleted video of a stumbled-upon corpse hanging from a tree in Japan’s “suicide forest” – I’m with you in your pain and outrage. The video – shot in a popular locale for people who want to end their life – features Paul and a few of his friends mocking the victim and nervously laughing.
It didn’t take long after Paul posted the video that the backlash began to roll in, with angry social media users slamming him for such insensitivity with respect to suicide. Paul has since released a statement of apology, claiming that he didn’t post the video for “likes,” rather, to “make a positive ripple on the internet.” He claims he wanted to raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention. But the only awareness he raised was of how inappropriate, insensitive and idiotic he can be (sorry, it’s still fresh). The video, titled, “We found a dead body in the Japanese Suicide Forest,” didn’t live long online until Paul removed it – but, apparently, it can still be found online.
Dear Internet, pic.twitter.com/42OCDBhiWg
— Logan Paul (@LoganPaul) January 2, 2018
When his initial statement seemed to only fuel the growing social media fire, Paul issued another apology. In the admittedly heartfelt video, he called the recorded reactions to the unexpected body “raw” and “unfiltered,” but made no excuses for his actions, encouraging fans not to either.
The images – and, actually, his actions in general – are undoubtedly hauntingly disturbing for the average person, but so much more so for people with loved ones who have hanged themselves (don’t even get me started on his commentary). In short, suicide affects the victim’s loved ones in a way you can’t imagine until you experience it for yourself, and become part of a club nobody wants to be part of that’s united in a common understanding of both all the aforementioned emotions and about mental health. The disturbing part is, a sick part of me wants to watch the video – and I’m sure I’m not the only person in “the club” who feels the same way. The reasoning behind it is the same reasoning that came with imagining how it would feel if I pulled that scarf tighter around my neck in the winter – a quest for answers, for understanding, for knowledge, for another piece of a puzzle that will never make sense. People in the club get it.
Many of them probably also spent part of their workday thinking about their loved one or scrolling through their social media pages.
But here’s the thing, I imagine Paul isn’t part of this club, and he is only 22 –admittedly, old enough to know better, but likely yet to truly experience tragedy. Hopefully, he’ll never become part of it. I hope he and others learned from this experience and that it inspires a greater dialogue about mental health, suicide and ethics.