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The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Say the Word Suicide: Censorship?

Trigger Warning: Mention of suicide as a topic.
I have recently discussed what triggers are in terms of mental health conditions and why we use trigger warnings. They are essentially a warning for the reader or viewer to give them the option to back away slowly or proceed forward cautiously. 
Another issue along these lines has appeared in my line of vision. This topic is, of course, censorship. 
The question I wish to raise is one of moral dilemmas, ethics, and common courtesy. When are we required, if not expected, to censor ourselves and our voices in order to help the common good? How do we create places of safety and security that we ourselves can be contained in while also helping to contain others? And, maybe more importantly, is this truly censorship in its rawest form? 
Suicide, for instance, is a hot topic. It is still highly stigmatized along with mental health in general. Many people have opinions about suicide, from the final act of it to religion or health or safety, and the list goes on. A huge part of the issue is that it is not something we talk about in our society, or really any society. It is still very taboo, which grinds my gears to no possible end. If we consider suicidality as a spectrum, where to the left people refuse to acknowledge its existence and to the right people are fixated and obsessed with it, it probably should come as no surprise that I land on the far right. Part of my new goals in therapy are to shimmy my way back to the middle ground. However, my question still stands. If we choose to talk about it, we run into this issue of what feels like censorship. 
It is expected, for an understandable reason, to not discuss or present specific suicide methods. These are the same guidelines that the National Alliance on Mental Illness uses in their “In Our Own Voice” presentations. It is also the same guidelines that the media is expected to report to by the American Association on Suicidology when discussing someone who has passed away due to suicide: do not mention specific methods so as not to accrue copycat suicides. 
The places where you *can* discuss nitty gritty details include individual therapy, a crisis team, the emergency department, a psychiatric hospital, and a hotline. The places you should *not* (but that people may do anyways) include group programs, the internet, group meetings, articles, and films or television. 
For instance, I want to write a fiction-based novel in which the entirety of the story takes place in the afterlife. I want my main character, Noah, as I originally thought of seven years ago, to struggle with his own suicidality and to come to terms with his premature death in his afterlife journey of self-discovery, determination, persistence, and identity on what it means to lead a life worth living. I brought up the idea in therapy and it was June, my therapist, who brought to light her dismay at the idea of me being descriptive of the act of his suicide. 
But having brought up this plot to my therapist made for an interesting and important distinction that is at the heart of this article. June told me if I were to be descriptive of a suicide in my novel, people would hone in on the suicide and lose the rest of the message. I have had experience with that happening this semester. My main therapist, April, suggested that I be preventative to not only myself for having to write on the topic but to my audience as well. I cannot control what other authors have expressed before, yet I can control what I do. I would have a trigger warning in my novel and I have decided that putting my audience through a secondhand suicide is not the kind of route I want to go, because I have been the reader in that type of plot before and it really, really sucks. 
So, is it censorship, really? I think not—it is simply a new behavior that is preventive, leading by example and protecting myself and those around me to the best of my ability. In my novel I wish to discuss the complexities of suicide and possibly mental health awareness because it is important to talk about these issues when it is with the appropriate person and within the appropriate setting.  
Adapting to this new behavior took me a couple of weeks. There was a lot of re-working this article and ongoing consideration to alter one of my ongoing fan fiction stories that covers a more explicit suicide scene. In the end, it is my choice how I decide to portray a dark subject matter and it is something only I have complete control over.  
Be careful out there.