For today’s Music on Mondays, I want to touch on a subject that often is considered taboo to talk about: suicide.
Two months before my sixth birthday, my father committed suicide. He did it on his 31st birthday in January 1961.
Suicide affected my life again in 1983 when my then-best friend’s father in Houston committed suicide. I was a pallbearer at the funeral.
Then, on April 15, 1993, I left College Station, Texas, for points north (also known as Canada) to commit suicide. I was 38 at the time, and too patriotic to kill myself in the United States of America. I don’t even know what I mean by that, but that was my thinking at the time.
Long story short, I wound up in San Diego after driving to Fargo, North Dakota, over to Seattle, Washington, up to Vancouver, and then making my way south to San Diego.
As early as 2000, studies started appearing indicating that there was evidence of suicide inheritability, a suicide gene if you will. With the continued overpopulation of the Earth (now approaching eight billion people) and the proliferation of the 24/7 news cycle on the Internet, news about suicides and attempted suicides is much more common than in the distant past.
Approximately one million people die by suicide each year and it is estimated that there are ten to twenty times as many suicide attempts. Along with the suspected suicide gene, many social factors can result in suicide. In the case of my dad, he had discovered that my mom had been cheating on him. In my case, I decided that I didn’t want to live as a closeted gay man, and the Texas society I lived in, as well as my own Mormon (mom) and Catholic (dad) family, wouldn’t permit me to live as an openly gay man. So suicide it was to be….
There are risk factors and warning signs of suicide. Sadly, I’m still at risk and I still do exhibit some warning signs. In fact, in 2000 I was suicidal because I was fired from my job, the best job I ever had. My boss, my friend, had just gotten married to a woman who had expressly told me that she didn’t like me and if she ever married Jeff, she would make sure I was fired. She succeeded. Sadly, six months after they were married, she filed for divorce and took him for $37 million. In Texas we called women like her a gold digger, and she lived and breathed every stereotype.
On May 12, 2012, National Train Day, I disappeared, intent on committing suicide by stepping in front of an Amtrak train cruising around a curve at 90 mph. I knew which curve it was going to be. There would be no chance for the train to stop in time, and I would be assured of being splattered from here to eternity. But I went train riding first, and I had so much fun riding the trains that day that I made it home okay.
For a great discussion about suicide, risk factors, and warning signs, see Recognize the warning signs of suicide. For a list of suicide help lines, see the Wikipedia entry: List of suicide crisis lines.
Here are some of my favorite songs about suicide, its causes, and its lasting effects. The first song, “Alone Again (Naturally)” by Gilbert O’Sullivan, was my favorite song in 1972 when I was a junior in high school, a time when I was suicidal because I just wasn’t having those feelings for the opposite gender that all my friends were having. It was a frustrating time for me.
Gilbert O’Sullivan – Alone Again (Naturally) – 1972
The singer tells of his plans to commit suicide after being left at the altar.
Elton John – I Think I’m Going to Kill Myself – 1972
A tongue-in-cheek parody of a moody teenager’s thoughts about suicide.
Queen – Don’t Try Suicide – 1980
Interesting in that this is one of the very few
Queen songs that they never performed in concert.
Ozzy Osbourne – Suicide Solution – 1980
On January 12, 1986, Osbourne was served with a lawsuit
by the parents of John McCollum,
a depressed teenager who committed suicide
allegedly after listening to this song.
Metallica – Fade to Black – 1984
This song address suicidal feelings.
Metallica reported in 1991 that they got hundreds of letters from kids telling how they related to the song and that it made them feel better.
INXS – Suicide Blonde – 1990
Written by Michael Hutchence,
who committed suicide on November 22, 1997.
His lover, Paula Yates, died of an overdose on
September 17, 2000, after attempting suicide in 1998.
Pantera – Suicide Note – 1996
Almost one third of suicides are accompanied by a suicide note.
Again, for a great discussion about suicide, risk factors, and warning signs, see Recognize the warning signs of suicide. For a list of suicide help lines, see the Wikipedia entry: List of suicide crisis lines.
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