Embrace Those Seasonal Suicidal Feelings
You gotta sing the Winter Blues to cure them.
By Tony Sokol
It’s winter time, at least here in New York in spite of the weather, and a lot of people are thinking about doing themselves in. Suicide rates rise during the winter months. For some people, it’s the loneliness of the holiday season, for others, the lack of sunlight. Some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder, usually dismissed as the Winter Blues. Other people battle depression all year round. For some, suicidal thoughts are caused by chemicals. Others find themselves thinking of death because of their circumstances. Even others think about it because it’s fun to think about. There’s nothing wrong that, even if people are too scared to listen. Zoe Quinn, the center of the Gamergate controversy, made a game about it.
There isn’t much discussion about suicide in America, even though there is a lot of talk. Of course, we learned from television that an early warning sign of suicides is that they talk about suicide. The conversation is very one-sided. “Don’t do it.” “If you’re thinking about suicide, stop.” If you’re debating the merits of cutting across the veins or along the veins, people advise you to get yourself help. That might not be what people want to hear. Everyone needs a little encouragement and there just might be a deterrent in the push. Ever see the cops on TV saying telling a jumper to see to clear his patrol car? That usually does the trick on TV.
Suicide wasn’t always a social evil. It wasn’t always a sin. Some cultures see it as a way of saving face. Roman soldiers threw themselves on their swords. Socrates drank the hemlock. Kamikazes and terrorists turned that inner rage into a weapon, which is a selfish use of the urge because it takes out people who haven’t made the decision, but the suicide at the center is not a stigma in those social circles. Over the past centuries, all suicidal conversation has been controlled by survivors’ grief.
I was sad when I heard Robin Williams died, but it seemed selfish of me to want to wish life on him when he wanted death. I had no way of knowing what into his decision. Around the time of Williams’s death, game designer Zoe Quinn developed "Depression Quest," which IGN called "an adventure in empathy." The game was designed to help people understand depression. According to Zoe's site Quinnspiracy, Depression Quest got launch approval on Steam “Literally minutes” before she learned “beloved actor Robin Williams was found dead from a suspected suicide after a long struggle with depression. We were all ready to hit the big red button the minute that the news broke."
Concerned she might be seen as taking advantage of the tragedy for money, Zoe put the game up for free, explaining "There is no way, in my mind, to ethically put something intended to be a tool for helping people behind a paywall. None.” Quinn explained "I know there may be a worst case of people assuming the launch somehow is trying to capitalize on tragedy. However, I would rather have those people hate me than the people who are currently quietly suffering with this illness sit at their dinner tables tonight and hear the discussion of today's news, hear people not understand how someone who had so much could kill themselves, and lack a resource they could have needed right then to point to and say 'this is why.'"
Although I haven’t played the game, it seems to me that Zoe’s on to something, even if she only has the best intentions. Turning any aspect of suicide into a game goes a long way towards taking away the stigma of suicide. This can free people to talk about it in ways other people don’t want to hear. It’s tough to bring up suicidal fantasia because most people immediately try to shut you up. Or worse, immediately assume they have to talk you out of something.
That’s because everyone, at some point in their lives, thinks about suicide. They might not look at the beams in their garage and wonder if they will support the weight of a hanging body, but the thoughts will come. Fleeting as they might be, some of these people must believe that suicide is contagious. Depression is, after all, a disease and everyone is afraid of catching something particularly virulent. Right now, the press is reporting that while males in America are in the middle of a suicide epidemic.
Anything can set off a suicidal thought in a person who is predisposed to it. Big or small events take on equal weight when the blood sugar is low. But part of the problem is that people have to have these conversations internally. They know they can’t share these ideas because someone might turn them in and they just might be stuck in a five-point harness in an institution over a holiday weekend. But they should. They should be open about their considerations. Talk it through, all the way through. Some people might find the method they’re looking for, but others will find that the ultimate solution is not to bring about an ultimate solution. And if they do, they should not be stigmatized as selfish over it. We all die.
Talking about suicide can be fun. It just might be the fun thing that someone needs to go on another day. Talking about suicide is infinitely more fun than writing about “Depression Quest.” When I first wrote about Quinn, for another publication, I was hit with the worst accusations. Among them, that I was a feminazi and that I was sleeping with Quinn. Flattering as that might be, I’d only gotten my information online and when I went to do more digging, I found that the accusations laid on her were far worse. Yet, she never attempted to turn the misogynistic masses suicidal. Maybe that’s something we should talk about. I’ll bring the kool-aid.
Published December 31st, 2015
Tony Sokol is a writer, playwright and musician. He writes for Den of Geek, The Chiseler, KpopStarz.com and wrote for Altvariety, Coed.com, Daily Offbeat. Dark Media Press, Wicked Mystic and other magazines. He has had over 20 plays produced in NYC, including Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera "AssassiNation: We Killed JFK." He appeared on the Joan Rivers (TV) Show, Strange Universe and Britain's "The Girlie Show."