The Twitter “Suicide Syndrome”

Like most people who are very active on Twitter and know people in the social media world, I was saddened to learn of the death of Trey Pennington.  Trey apparently committed suicide.  The outpouring of sympathy on twitter was forceful and touching.  From reading the tweets of those who seemed to know him to various extents, Trey suffered from depression.  Anyone who follows my blog knows that I suffer from depression and that I came close to Trey’s fate but for the intervention of people who cared.  Not only cared but were on the ground, IN REAL LIFE, able to actually see the changes in my behavior and react quickly.

That said, and with proviso that  I am talking in generalities, knowing absolutely nothing about Trey’s personal life and struggles, it was distressing to see a mentality of surprise and “if I had only called or tweeted”  Why the surprise?  Because he did not tweet he was depressed?  He did not tweet he was going to commit suicide? He did not post it on his blog?  He did not call up any of his “twitter-friends” or other social media buds to talk?   People on the brink and truly going to end their lives generally do not announce it.  I did not explicitly announce it or ask for help. People broke down my door and took the 45 automatic off my nightstand.  Exchanging links and being ” good social media buds” is not going to give  anyone the insight to help.  The only true help comes from people on the ground, in that person’s life on a day to day basis.  They see the changes in behavior and only they are in a position to intervene.   A tweet that all is going to be ok or a “how you doing phone” call is not intervention. That is guilt relieving.

There are a lot of Trey’s  out there.  Help the ones you can really help with “in-force” action, not “how ya doing”  tweets, phone calls and  Facebook messages.  100k Twitter friends are not going to save anyone.  Real friends can.



2 Responses

  1. You and I have discussed this subject before. Again, I want to thank you for being so open & honest about this matter. You haven’t hidden the ugly reality of the illness nor have you expressed shame in having dealt with depression yourself.

    A social network can be fun, career enhancing or profitable, but it can’t replace related frienship and a support network physically by your side.

    I am saddened by those suffering from chronic illnesses. I feel as if depression is one of the most difficult chronic illnesses to manage (recovery isn’t ever complete) because it often goes hand and hand with other illnesses, addictions, & poverty. However folks shouldn’t fool themselves into thinking they are immune from depression because of wealth or social status- especially social media status.

    I still wish you would devote a Revolution to the topic. It could be extremely important in making sure incorrect hindsights such a “if I would have known” or “he could have DMd me” from circulating.

  2. It has always irked me, how police and other official do-gooders will ask, "Do you feel like you want to hurt yourself?" to someone they suspect is suicidal. Having had a couple of close calls myself, the feeling is more like you just want quiet, or just want the pain of some experience to stop. Suicide is about avoiding pain, not "hurting yourself."

    Likewise, people will pose stupid questions in the aftermath of a suicide. When former baseball player Mike Flanagan committed suicide last month, the message boards were full of people asking "didn't he know that millions of fans love him?" When I have been in a deep depression, a verbal expression of someone's love has often seemed hollow and insincere.

    I would not wish depression on anyone, but life would be so much easier for those of us who've suffered it if the rest of the world had any clue what it's like.

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