• Suicide Baiting is a bad writing prompt

    The tyranny of grief can be absolute.  Unbidden, tyrannical grief can present itself in the most ordinary of moments.  And sometimes grief can become our work.  Grief can manifest itself as the most poorly-designed, ill-thought-out writing prompt ever issued by a green-first-year teacher:  You become the poster child for a cause.  Describe that cause.

    Responding to this hell-bent martinet’s contemptible assignment can defy description. My own loathsome attempt to address the writing prompt from Hell began with what happened in front of the Forever 21 store in Hallidie Plaza, San Francisco on February 16, 2010.  On that day, and in that place, my only child became the poster boy for suicide baiting.  Literally.

    The picture of him standing on the ledge is textbook.  An archetype.  It is destined for psychology coursework, like his story.  Dylan Gifford Yount and I are the poster people for suicide baiting prevention.  We are the Rorschach blots that people see when they Google suicide baiting.

    Of actual poster-pictures, there are 108 from the suicide baiting.  All photos — the ones of him still alive, at least – have really just become one iconic shot, altered slightly only by the variables of photographers’ eyes and camera lenses, everything from grainy cellphone graphic pics to Flickr exif image data photos.  The focus is all the same.  The composition is dead on.  The picture of The Man in Turquoise Boxers on a Ledge is to suicidal desperation as Auguste Rodin’s statue, The Thinker, is to thought.

    The picture of Dylan poised on the architectural lip of the beaux-arts building, his back against the fragile wall of glass is the image I Google first thing on most mornings.  I start by seeing him still alive, then I ask myself the same questions every day.  Who among us could ever envision becoming the poster people for suicide baiting?  Nothing in our lives prepared us for this.

    Few will ever advocate for the suicidal; fewer still for the victims of suicide baiting. The cause would well serve the angry gods to slap on a modern and damned Sisyphus, doomed FOREVER to watch the boulder he just rolled up a steep hill roll back down.  Again.  Not only is suicide baiting an unfamiliar term (but completely explanatory) to most, it also joins a plethora of other misnomers such as suicide survivor.

    While most might think of suicide survivor as being similar to describing a patient “beating” a disease such as cancer into remission, no one actually survives suicide.  If one survives a suicide attempt, he becomes a suicide attempt survivor.  If one does not survive, he is dead.  Surviving a suicide is SO bad, that in North American culture, we have designated the term to refer to the bereaved of a suicide death.  Suicide survivors regularly DO speak of suicide stigma and suicide taboo with each other alright, but rarely in public.  Society still has its collective, um, head in the sand when it comes to all topics related to mental illness.

    In fact, mental illness is so misunderstood that it only joined the list of those who could be targeted as victims of hate crimes in 2009 under “disability” (mental and/or physical).  Hate crimes are defined as criminal acts committed BECAUSE of a person’s – real or perceived – race, religion, national origin, gender identity, sexual preference, or DISABILITY.  Clearly, Dylan was perceived as being suicidal.  Clearly, that was an accurate descriptor.

    As far as the case of his suicide baiting goes, the circumstances are, again, clear.  Dylan was targeted BECAUSE he was suicidal.  Dylan was victimized BECAUSE he was experiencing a mental crisis in public.  He was baited and mocked BECAUSE he was mentally ill in public.

    He was as disabled as if he had been trying to walk around on a broken leg, offers Eve Meyer, executive director of San Francisco Suicide Prevention and sometime trainer of the San Francisco Police Department.  She uses that simile to describe how hard it would be to hide mental illness.

    It is clear that in the midst of a critical and acute crisis, my son was served derision and apathy.  The only assistance he did receive was the subliminal cue of a marked off jump zone, outlined in yellow police tape, readied especially for him, courtesy of the SFPD.  His medical emergency was regarded as a matter appropriate for jokes and laughter.  While there may be some sociopaths who think experiencing a heart attack in public might be funny, they generally do not cheer such a victim on.  Not yet, at least.

    As opposed to the kind of suicide baiting that happens on the Internet (Google MN suicide nurse William Melchert-Dinkel) the degenerate act in real life must be regarded as spontaneous serendipity for the depraved.  A novel happenstance.  An X-Treme Lethal Sport.  A live video game.  For braggarts.  Probably, it is just as terrifying for those trained in psychology as it is for the rest of us to imagine how many walking among us — everyday, all around us — are sociopaths and psychopaths.  Even when we can explain the differences between the two, we all still shiver with these thoughts.  Perhaps this also explains, in part, why mental illness is a topic we wish to ignore.  Ignoring mental illness will only bring us more pain.  Depression is epidemic.

    From my personal perspective as suicide baiting survivor, I recognize that I am hypersensitive to the daily barrage of cruelty detailed in our news, and sometimes this deep relationship with grief prevents me from explaining my “cause.”  While I have not yet labeled suicide baiting a sin, others already have.  Recently, Laura Sargent at ThinkingAboutSuicide.com in “The Crime of Suicide Baiting” adopts an uncompromising stand when she flatly and courageous says suicide baiting is a “sin,” when she characterizes it as “evil personified.”  I agree.  So now, I have officially said that, too.

    For those accustomed to balance and fairness in what they read, feel free to Google “Sunday Entertainment Section” by Black Sheep for the other side, of course.  But, please keep in mind a stern caveat as well:  Do NOT try to leave a comment there.  Black Sheep will delete your comments, intentionally misinterpret your comments, OR worst yet, he will insidiously and shamefully REWRITE what you have said and attribute his words to you!  His piece of writing about suicide baiting stands as the most egregious example of invidious hatred I have ever read.  If blog writing could be classified as a hate crime, Black Sheep would be bleating in prison, but it is not.  Just actual, traditional crime laced with bias can be prosecuted as hate crime.  Still, his work leaves me weak.

    Yet, curiously, I am growing, too.  Today, three years and one-hundred fifty-four days after my son’s suicide-baiting death, I am struck by how a human being can keep growing in spite of an all-consuming relationship with grief.  While I am the ONLY remaining poster-spokesperson left alive from the Younts, I am addressing my writing prompt.  The response is getting written, one painful day at a time.  It is my latent belief that others in the same category as I – suicide baiting survivor – are the tardiest of all schoolfellows, the most unwilling of all learners, the most haunted of all.

    A friend has tweeted this:  “I dream of a world where the crowd yells, ‘Stop!  Don’t do…'”  Yeah, and that too.

    • I am glad you are speaking about this Kathy and I really hope you can find some time to treat yourself to a day free of stress.

    • Thanks, Madge, for the comments. The teacher sometimes becomes the student: I had always told my students how beneficial writing could be, but I never dreamed how intimately I would become acquainted with this fact. I don’t think a day free of stress will come for me until I have exhausted every possibility in the legal process to criminalize and demand accountability for suicide baiting. The practice is far more prevalent than most ever realize. Comparing the information the police sent me in their report with the information I have gathered from blogs, videos, tweets, pictures, newspaper articles, opinion columns, etc.UNDERSCORES why this legal fight is totally necessary. The SFPD never once returned any of my calls. They never called me about his death. EVER. My only information came from the medical examiner who had answered Dylan’s phone. Everyone we spoke to in the ME’s office treated us with respect and kindness. The SFPD, on the other hand, has never even had the courtesy to tell me if they HAVE a written SOP to employ in the tragic event of a suicide attempt. I finally received two brief SFPD letters on July 12, 2010, and July 13, 2010, 21 weeks after Dylan’s death. I had begged in three letters to know what happened during the last hour of my son’s life. Even the fact that the police in America are under no obligation to share what they DO KNOW absolutely floors me. I would never have guessed they COULD disenfranchise the victim’s survivors. In their report, they said that had interviewed ONE witness. One, a street vendor. They did not even wait until my son’s girlfriend came home! They had already left without calling her! All this should shock us out of our complacency. I want these concerns addressed in a court of law with a fair and open-minded jury. We have all grown too accustomed to accepting the status quo. I have nothing left to do with my life EXCEPT THIS. I am not going away. Why in the world would their standard operating procedures be a secret? I go back and forth in my personal belief whether they have a written SOP, much less proper training. It cannot be googled. Do they just go out there everyday and fly by the seat of their pants? I think I surely am not the only person who would like to know these answers. The disregard for human life displayed by the SFPD disgusts me.

    • Slowly, you are turning your grief into anger. Anger becomes passion. Passion begets change. You will trudge away from your grief, slow step by slow step. One day, you’ll look back and discover you’ve walked quite a distance away from it. Nothing will ever replace Dylan or right that wrong. But I am hoping that in time, you will find something beside grief — maybe the joy in discovering that you (and Dylan) have saved a life, or lives.

    • I can barely type a response I am so emotional from your post. Your words give me courage. I want both justice and PREVENTION. It is not enough to say, “Oh, it is sad Dylan died in a suicide baiting, but there is nothing we can do about that!” There is always something we can do about every injustice we endure. Matthew Sheppard’s parents worked for over a decade to finally see the Matthew Sheppard Hate Crime Act of 2009. Matthew became a martyr in gay rights legislation after being dragged behind a car, tied to a fence post, beaten, and left to die for his “crime” of homosexuality. Suicide legislation will have its martyrs as well, Megan Meier from Missouri comes to mind Immediately. Phoebe Prince. Tyler Clementi. We are all equally charged to make the world a better place than we found it. Dylan did. And he would have wanted me to fight. People like you give me strength. Thanks is not much to offer, but it is all I humbly have. You are making a HUGE difference in the world, Debra. Margaret Mead’s quote always inspires, “Never doubt an individual’s ability to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” I am not yet ready to concede that we have lost our judicial bid. I discuss this very topic in my newest essay, “Suicide Baiting is third party bullying inflicted at the worst time,” which I plan to submit ASAP.

    • Our trial is scheduled to begin August 25, 2014, in San Francisco’s Civic Center Courthouse, the Honorable Judge Cynthia Ming-mei Lee presiding.

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