Day 15 – Suicide ideation – a bigger threat than bullying?

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:

amanda angel

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:

Amanda Todd: The anguish continues

‘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:

Year in Ideas: High-profile suicides such as Amanda Todd's show there are no simple answers

‘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.

6 thoughts on “Day 15 – Suicide ideation – a bigger threat than bullying?

  1. Thanks for the article, your points are well made. Dr Leblanc’s article is one I’m familiar with & I agree with totally. As I’ve previously mentioned my first gut reaction to Amanda’s video was anger, frustration & judgement at the the non response by anyone to “I have no one, I need someone” last cry for help by Amanda. Dr Leblanc sums it up “she called for help – and nobody answered.”

    I believe Amanda may have had some help with video, it hit the mark. I don’t think her mum had anything to do with it though because this remark would not have been allowed (im my opinion) to stand. I believe this is a direct message from Amanda to those closest to her that she simply wasn’t getting enough support. I can only imagine what the non response did to her already deeply troubled mind.

    I don’t know a lot about events eading up to her suicide but everyone assumes that whatever drove her over edge happened on the day she ended her life. This may or may not be the case. I believe I read somewhere a quote from her mum stating Amanda was happier at this time. Isn’t it common in suicide victims to sometimes appear happier just before the act? It appears that this happens because they have reached a peace within themselves…..the decision to end their life. I believe Amanda reached that decision somewhere between 7 September and 10 October, probably nearer the 10th but not necessarily on this date.

    As I’ve said previously a lot of this story runs parallel to recent events in my own life….and it becomes more familiar with some of your recent research, the friends in her life, alcohol use, wayward undisciplined behaviour with no real punishments or lessons learned. Your ’empty calories’ type parenting is bang on in this regards. Lots of ‘spoiling’ but no real love, understanding or emotional support. This type of parenting infuriates me!!!

    Your research is good and opinions could well be bang on but you are also correct is saying you can sometimes be your own worst enemy. Introducing yourself with fake name and account (although understandable to me now) with rants about ‘attention seekers’ in regards to teens threatening suicide may be worth a review! The ‘cry for help’ approach will more than likely get a better response! Just my opinion.

    I’m going to take the not so lazy approach to suicide ideation and look into it myself but thanks for the links. There are people who are saying they are inspired by Amanda’s story and this has lead them to groups which are helping them but I’m concerned where this may end up. Ultimately Amanda took her own life, she wasn’t strong or inspiring, and can’t be seen as an angel, saint or role model. This is just wrong. Having said that she was a young girl in turmoil who took her life to end her pain (im my opinion) and I feel sorry for her.

    It is interesting to note she left a personal message to mum on her phone which obviously hasn’t been made public, (quite rightly) which we can assume was a goodbye and I’m sorry message? That isn’t the actions of Amanda trying to blame or hurt her.

      • Well, Colin – Day 15’s post was just for you! As you’ve already seen, I’ve mentioned the ‘I need someone’ cry for help. The response to it was, I think, just unbelievable. Somewhere in my research, I’m sure that I read that Amanda’s mum did help. I will have to track this down (there’s a lesson in journalism there – always keep note of your sources!). It IS a direct message – only a fool could miss it, let alone not talk about it!
        There is the mystery about the day of the suicide. As you know, I still feel it didn’t happen – but I have a couple of other theories. Manic depression (or call it bipolar – whatever) can take you way up one day, and then the slightest thing can take you down almost instantly. For example, you will be aware of Stephen Fry’s rapids responses – one criticism of a play he was in led to him going missing; one person said his tweets were boring, he goes off twitter for ages – heightened responses to non-events.
        So it might not have taken a huge event to unbalance her – she was in a poor state as it was. And I think we may never know what that last message was.
        But I can have a few theories. I think Amanda was, to try and put it succinctly, delusional – mad – stupid. Call it what you will. I think she really couldn’t grasp that people hated her, let alone didn’t like her. From 2007 onwards she has been on display – cheer-leading, photos, singing, stripping, you name it. But when the negativity came, she couldn’t cope. When HER reality – singing superstar loved by the world – met THE reality – mediocre kid who not many people liked – it just collapsed. I’m guessing she repeated the same actions with her last two videos – ‘look at me, ain’t I great’ – and when she got ‘no, you’re not’ that was it.
        Also, I think the strain of keeping up the lies was too much. It’s VERY likely that the video may have proved fatal – drawing attention to herself again, and I guess someone might have pulled out the naked photo album again. Talk about repeating history!
        On the other hand – it’s all fake. But we’ll get to that later.
        I won’t take back my accusation of teens being attention-seekers through self-harm and threats of suicide. I think that, for many, it’s simply blackmail. There are big differences between cries for help and attention-seeking. You only have to look online (Nicole Barker?) to see that threatening suicide online has become a hobby!
        And how do you know I’m not Philip Rose? I could be double-triple bluffing.
        You mention the groups ‘inspired’ by Amanda. For the most part, they are idiots – well-meaning people, but still idiots.
        An example: kids in BC started a page to send compliments to other school kids. Ah, how nice! Except it became a page for all the popular kids to tell each other how great they were, and all the unpopular kids felt even worse that nobody was sending them a compliment.
        Then we had the EXTREMELY dangerous ‘if you’re lonely, talk to me’ people. Has nobody heard about how to groom vulnerable kids? No-one checked to see if these new anti-bullying pages were in any way professions.
        All of the story surrounding Amanda is complex. For untrained, spur-of-the-moment crack-pots to start offering all types of advice is HUGELY dangerous. Again – I could be here all day with examples, but I hope to get to it later.
        Lastly – never assume! (or try not to!). The message could have said ‘I hate you mom’; how about ‘Dad made me do it?’; or it could have said ‘I’m pregnant’! Going by Mrs Todd’s self-aggrandising behaviour, if it had said anything like ‘sorry’ she would have publicised it!
        Thanks for the comments and advice!

  2. LOL Colin – I see you’ve been talking to Corinne! I take it as a compliment that you think I tell the truth, but ‘Philip Rose is a total pain in the ass’ – that’s unkind! LOL Watch out though! They are out to get you! ‘Colin Connolly is a troll.’ Well, at least that’s what Corinne is saying. Take care!

    • Me a troll? Haha. You can be a pain in the ass at times……not the most unkind thing I can say, and yeah I believe you believe your stories (not just attention seeking) so I see that as honesty.

  3. Pingback: The story goes on….. | Truth is eternal. Knowledge is changeable.

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