Today, I will briefly deal with one of the dangerous aspects of the story.
As usual, Wikipedia provides a quite good overview and definition of suicide ideation:
Suicidal ideation is a medical term for thoughts about or an unusual preoccupation with suicide. The range of suicidal ideation varies greatly from fleeting to detailed planning, role playing, self-harm and unsuccessful attempts, which may be deliberately constructed to fail or be discovered, or may be fully intended to result in death. Although most people who undergo suicidal ideation do not go on to make suicide attempts, a significant proportion do.Suicidal ideation is generally associated with depression; however, it seems to have associations with many other psychiatric disorders, life events, and family events, all of which may increase the risk of suicidal ideation.
Essentially, the Amanda Todd story has resulted in such suicide ideation, and a great risk of copycat behaviour – from thoughts, self-harm, all the way through to possible suicide.
I will briefly run through the reasons why, before linking to articles:
Please note: this aspect of the Amanda Todd story infuriates me. I hope this doesn’t show too much, but I have a feeling this might turn into a rant.
For some reason (I will get to this later in the blog) the Amanda Todd story went viral. Was it a clever bit of marketing, or just one of those unexplained Internet phenomena? I think it was a bit of both – marketing that never anticipated the explosion of interest.
Very rapidly – within days – tens of R.I.P. pages were created, soon reaching a hundred or so, and finally going over the 300 mark. Even assuming that there was some duplication of the Facebook ‘likes’, it’s safe to assume that the number of fans was well over the million mark – maybe as high as two or three million. Views of her video now stand at over 25,000,0000.
But what was worrying about all this was the accompanying hype. Without exaggerating too much, Amanda was soon glorified, almost to the point of some insane sainthood – she was the Perfect Child, an inspiration, a role model – praise the Lord! Let’s look at just one example of the iconography:
I find this bizarre.
So – we quickly found ourselves in a situation where Amanda could do no wrong (and, more to the point, could have done no wrong).
But what was so dangerous about this?
Followers of the Amanda story will know what kind of things were said. People insisted she was in Heaven, repeatedly saying things like she was finally at peace, that she was with God, that she was ‘in a better place’, that she had no more problems. Really – does this discourage vulnerable, suicidal kids, or show them that there is some comfort in death?
Let’s remove the religious aspect. Arguments arose about her being in Hell (for committing suicide and other reasons) or in Heaven (with everything forgiven). However much I would like to get into a 100-page theological debate, that’s for another time! Suffice to say – her religious supporters went to great lengths to say that all her sins were forgiven and that she was, in fact, an angel.
So – let’s assume you are of religious persuasion, and you have a suicidal child. Using every method you can to dissuade them, you resort to the ultimate threats – it is a sin, you will not go to Heaven, you might even end up in Hell. The reply? ‘Amanda is an angel with the Lord.’ Argument over.
But even the non-religious fans didn’t do much to make suicide look bad. The atheists and semi-religious simply seemed to imply that, through suicide, Amanda’s problems were over.
Again – imagine you’re a doctor/psychologist/parent talking to your kid:
‘Suicide never solved anything’ – ‘Well, it did for Amanda.’
‘Suicide is not the answer’ – ‘Well, it was for Amanda.’
‘Things get better’ – ‘Well, they didn’t for Amanda, until she killed herself.’
And so on. A total utter disgrace. Not dealt with by the media, and virtually ignored by everyone else. No wonder that civilised countries (not Canada, it would seem) try to suppress news about suicide.
But it gets worse.
People commit suicide for many, many reasons. And they self-harm for many, many reasons. Again, it would take more than just a few pages of a blog to go into detail, so I will have to generalise, to a certain extent.
Lots of teenagers are in trouble. The world is an odd place. Emotions, hormones, boyfriends, girlfriends, what you look like, what you don’t look like, what you have, what you don’t have – an almost endless turmoil, an almost endless list.
But when you add another thing into the mix – completely useless parenting, which is becoming more and more common – it’s a recipe for disaster. This is just my opinion, but I believe that so many teen problems arise from the kind of parental attention they get – at one end of the spectrum, no attention at all, and and at the other end the kind of ’empty calories’ attention shown by spoiling the child with endless gifts. But not a lot of real love and understanding.
So some kids get lost. And they put out pleas for attention. Self-harm, destructive behaviour, suicide notes on YouTube, suicide attempts and – of course, seeking some sort of feedback via BlogTV.
So what sort of example did Amanda’s suicide set? Apart from the glorification I have already described – the achievement of an end to all problems and becoming an angel – it got her that craved teen commodity – ATTENTION.
People will question: how can someone who has committed suicide be looking for fame and attention?
The answer is easy – there are two basic ones:
Some people who commit or attempt suicide will be doing it with a combination of the ‘I told you so’ and ‘You’ll suffer when I’ve gone’ attitude. Having pleaded for help, threatened, explained, they will, in ultimate frustration, launch the ‘I told you so’ missile. Having been ignored, perhaps even disliked, mistreated, or misunderstood, they will punish those they see as responsible (usually parents) with the final sacrifice – ‘You’ll suffer’.
Remember: this is a generalisation. Suicide is VERY complex. But I think I’m not too far off in some of my thoughts.
The second reason is getting attention. Some kids feel worthless. No matter what they do, nobody seems to love/respect/admire/like them. Some kids – and I put Amanda in this category – crave attention like some people crave drugs (look at the cheer-leading, the BlogTV, the singing, all the photos). But neither types are getting the correct type of attention – basically, love.
So – we have kids who, for some reason or other, feel worthless. There are many ways of dealing with it – some cope, some don’t. And many resort to the wrong ways of attention-seeking, like self-harm (again, I have to say: there are OTHER reasons for self-harm). When I say ‘attention-seeking’, perhaps it is better to say ‘cry for help’. Most attention-seeking is a cry for help.
So what does Amanda Todd’s story show?
It shows this: if, alive, you see yourself as worthless, you think that everyone around you sees you as worthless, you are lonely (though you might be surrounded by friends), then suicide will make something of you. It will make you famous. Everyone will love you. No-one will forget you. In death, you will achieve, like Amanda, what you could never achieve in life. Superstardom.
Soon after October 2012, experts started to voice their opinion. The first move was to try to suppress the showing of the video in schools. That failed, and resulted in a least one report of a class in which kids were traumatised. Teachers had rushed in too fast, and underestimated the ability of even the youngest kids to find information: ‘Please, miss, I know this is an anti-bullying video, but can you explain what ‘flashing’ is?’ ‘Please miss, can you explain why people say ‘attention-whore’?’ ‘Please miss, suicide looks like a good idea.’
The handling of the story was criticised and – too late – the experts looked at recommendations for dealing with things in future. Experts realised this wasn’t just about bullying, there was much, much, more. Finally, experts realised that the whole thing was a disaster.
I leave you with these quotes and links to articles:
‘Exceptional publicity surrounding the death of Amanda Todd has produced a surge in suicidal thoughts by vulnerable young people across the country, according to two trauma experts.’
‘This week, the Burnaby school district reported an increase in high-risk behaviour arising from publicity about Amanda Todd’s death.’
For more such articles, just Google ‘Amanda Todd suicide ideation’.
Finally, this article, and two important quotes:
‘The 2011 film “Bully” was similarly criticized for framing the suicide of 17-year-old Tyler Long as a direct result of bullying, yet completely omitting the fact that he suffered from ADHD, bipolar disorder and Asperger’s. Notably, Mr. Long did not even mention bullying in his suicide note.’
‘Nevertheless, the real takeaway from Amanda Todd’s video and subsequent suicide, Dr. LeBlanc said, should be the simple fact that she called for help — and nobody answered.’
Just how did this story become all about bullying? Just how were all the really important issues brushed under the carpet? Just how did the parents avoid investigation? And why does the media still not tell the full, true story? Because it was all a disastrously planned bit of fakery? We shall see.