It’s been a difficult week. On Wednesday, the young man in this picture, EricJames Borges, 19, committed suicide. He was the latest in a series of young gay men who have killed themselves in the past two years. From what we know of their stories, they were all bullied by others for being gay. Some of them, like EricJames, also had to deal with families whose religion told them they were disgusting, evil, damned, and perverted. EricJames, in a YouTube video for the “It Gets Better” Campaign, told of his mother trying an exorcism to rid him of his homosexuality. He was told to leave home after he came out. Whatever the exact situation in his life, EricJames arrived at a place where he could no longer cope with the depression, and hanged himself. His friends and the LGBT community in Visalia and the central valley are in shock.
It’s completely normal for people who knew him to wonder if they could have done anything to prevent his death. From his closest friends, to casual acquaintances, people are left to wonder, and hope, that they didn’t miss the opportunity to help.
A friend commented about this a couple of days ago, and it got me to thinking about it as well. I was reminded of the circumstances of his meeting EricJames, at a public launch of a website geared to help LGBT youth find support and resources. I, too, first met him at this meeting. EricJames sent each of us a Facebook friend request some time after the initial meeting. We both turned down the request, as we each tend to only approve them if we actually know the person. Neither of us made the connection right away, and there was no follow up to remind us where we met. My friend, and I, once I recalled having also been the recipient of the request, wondered if we might have contributed to the negativity he felt in his life. If we did, it was not intentional.
The people who experience the suicide of a loved one, friend, or even casual acquaintance, often suffer guilt about the death. One wonders if they missed signs of depression, or failed to notice the dark cloud the victim was living under. Did we contribute by deflecting a request for “friends” status? We can only hope not.
Many wonder if they had known of the difficulty someone is facing, whether they could have helped. Sometimes, it is possible to help someone navigate the mental anguish, to emerge on the other side. Sometimes, no amount of love, caring, respect, attention, or friendship is enough to overcome the depression.
Even with the resources he had available, the Trevor Project (where he was an intern), his friends in the community, and all the other means at his disposal, it just couldn’t save him. We’re all sad, angry, upset, and distraught about his death. We have to remind ourselves that we’re only human, too, and that none of us have the ability to see everything all of the time. We all did what we could, many tried to help, and did, but in the end it was simply not enough.
I’m sorry I didn’t approve that friend request. I’m certain, however, that had I done so, it would not have changed this sad course of events. The overall situation was such that I doubt any of us could have successfully changed the outcome. Depression and suicidal thoughts are sometimes just too strong for others to alter. We simply have to live with the results.
If you find yourself in a dark place, and are thinking suicide is your best option, please talk to someone. It’s been said that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Never forget there are lots of people out there willing to help, even if it’s only to listen. The Trevor Project can help, if you just ask. Friends and relatives can offer support. Take the chance, and let someone know how much you are hurting. Maybe we can help.