Friday, February 6, 2009

Sad truth about child's suicide

This morning I was quoted in the Chicago Tribune, talking about the suicide of a 10-year-old boy who was found hanging in a bathroom in an Evanston, Ill. school.

Just to expand on what I said in the story: It's natural that we would want to find reasons for suicide, and that's what we do. "Why did this child commit suicide?" We speculate about his relationships with his classmates, his family situation, his treatment by his teachers, and anything else we think might have pushed him to suicide. But the answer almost always is that people who commit suicide, children and adults, have a mental illness. It's a symptom of a disease.

All of are sad sometimes, even despondent. We suffer horrendous calamities and setbacks. But most of us do not commit suicide. The ones who do have a mental illness, often an undiagnosed one.

The question we should ask after a child's suicide, or any suicide, is not "Why?" The question we should ask is: When will we do the research and provide the mental health care that could have prevented this?


  1. In response to your comment on my blog, "I appreciate the nice words about my book, but I'm sorry you felt I was wrong to tell it from my side. What other side could I tell? How could I know everything my wife felt and thought? The only honest way to tell it, I thought, was to tell what I thought and felt--while making very clear, throughout, that this was, as you could tell, my story--not anybody else's."

    I'm sure you didn't realize it (and perhaps still don't) but your writing is quite rigid and fails to truly capture the story of your children. I know the hostility of divorce can unconsciously taint your views as my own parents went through a bitter divorce. Even today, years later, I have to tell my parents to "grow up" and respect one another despite differences.

    This book would've been much more effective if it let the reader hear a bit from your wife's side. I realize at the time you were writing this that was most likely impossible as you two were still quite bitter but it would've been best if you would have waited and "grew up" a little, respected each other and then engaged in good journalism and writing and told the story from different angles.

    Still, you did an excellent job writing about the utter failure that mental health care is. I developed bipolar disorder very young as well but my family was much worse off financially than yours so your children are very lucky.

  2. SO very true about needing to improve mental health care, especially for children.