Letter To The Editor: In Response To “The Pressure Is Real”

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Dear Mr. Roche,
I just read your article “The Pressure Is Real” and have a few related comments and questions. I appreciate your writing on this topic, as I am a family-friend of a recent suicide victim.
I understand that your article was written in response to a newsworthy event, led by a group of students. I noted that it was written as a part of a series, and am hopeful that the next piece will include the voices of two key, but neglected, groups of voices: those of the families of suicide victims and mental health professionals.
In times like these, it's critical for communities to come together to investigate what solutions might be out there. And I'm aware that there were crisis intervention professionals at the students' event. However, after reading your article, I believe that those interviewed made assumptions about suicide without much evidence to back up their claims. This, I think, is misleading and against the intent of the article.
First of all, I understand that students' voices are important ones in the process of trying to figure out why fellow students would want to take their lives. But educational pressure has been there for decades, so what else has changed? What evidence did mental health professionals provide that contributed to this being reported as a real factor to rising numbers of suicides?
Secondly, you quoted a parent as saying that she thought bragging on social media is another contributing factor to an increase in suicide. I agree that bragging on social media is a detriment to our culture, but does it really contribute to a rise in suicide? Which mental health professionals did you interview who agreed that was a contributing factor?
Also, your article quoted a school district employee as saying that parents need to start having conversations at home. I think that this was a really glib way of putting blame on parents who already blame themselves disproportionately when the worst-case scenario takes place. If Mr. Mosier took the time to talk to victims' families, he would know that countless heartbreaking conversations take place, both in the home and in counseling centers or hospitals, when someone is suicidal or has severe depression.
Because of my own interest in this topic, I recently spoke to someone working with children in the behavioral health field. She said that one major issue these days is the graphic portrayal of suicide in the media (she used the specific example of the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why”). Although mental health professionals were consulted for the show and requested that producers not show suicide so graphically, the producers went against their advice. She said that every time a new season comes out, there is a spike in suicides. This is just one documented reason that professionals believe suicide rates have increased.
I think we're missing out on a full picture of what suicide is really about. We need real data from professionals, as well as anecdotal evidence from victims' families, to truly understand what steps communities can take to prevent suicide. Speculation only adds to the grief and torment of a family struggling to cope with mental health issues.
I look forward to reading your next article.
Meredith Cooper
Severna Park

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