I still remember the day I received the phone call. I was an angst-ridden fifteen year old and the Manhattan Police were on the other line. I knew it could only be about my father. Why else would they be calling? What happened next has shaped every day of my life, either consciously or subconsciously. Suicide works like that.
My father had been found hanging from piping in his Manhattan apartment. I know that may seem blunt, but the only way to truly come to terms with a situation, I believe, is to accept it as it happened. Even as I type this, some eighteen years later, it still feels like someone is tightening a rubber band around my throat. I don’t always cry about it, but I’ve also never been so honest about it in a public setting before. As you read this, my eyes are filling up with tears that I stopped holding back years ago. This, dear readers, is what suicide does. It doesn’t just end the life of the person involved, it ends the lives and futures of the families and friends, too.
The words the police officer said will always haunt me. “We regret to inform you that we found <
name edited> dead in his apartment this afternoon.” I hope you never, ever have to hear those words. They still ring hollow. “With whom am I speaking,” he continued, “is this Mrs. < name edited>?” Unbeknownst to the officer, he had just dropped the news onto that man’s eldest child. When I let him know my mother was who he wanted to speak to, I could hear his heart sink right along with mine. I know he tried to recover, but I beat him to it by giving him my mother’s cell phone. The man on the other line stammered and apologized as I hung up the phone. Never have I heard a more empty sound. It echoed off the walls, it echoed in my head and it still echoes in my heart.
Mom arrived home not too long after, having been out with my step father, and did her very best to console me. While my brother is also my father’s child, he lacks the bond I have with him. My parents divorced when my mother was still pregnant with my baby brother, so I am truly my father’s daughter. I will say this a million times, but my mother and I carry this grief all alone in this world. I say ‘carry’ in the present tense because it never goes away. It integrates itself into you life and it sometimes only takes the smallest detail to bring it all bubbling to the surface. The straw that broke my metaphorical camel’s back was Logan Paul.
I never cared much for celebrities. It’s never been a fascination of mine. I was always too focused on art or friends to fawn over fashion awards or whatnot. I do enjoy bits and pieces of the lifestyle, but you’ll never see me buying a magazine just because I’m fixated on an actress or actor. Honestly, they’re paid far too much in my opinion, but I digress. So, having established that I don’t care about that, YouTube celebrities fall even lower on my radar. That is, unless you’re Jenna Marbles because I love her little dogs and ridiculous beauty videos. As far as I was concerned, Logan Paul was just another overpaid idiot online who starts flame wars with other idiots for no reason. You know, like most of the internet has a tendency of doing. The other day, I finally took a look at what everyone has been screaming about. For those of you who are not aware, at least by this point, Logan Paul recently took a trip to Japan and posted a series of videos of his ‘adventures’. Most notably of them all being his trip to the Aokigahara Forest, or more importantly, one of the most popular and well-known places to commit suicide in Japan.
(Left: Logan Paul’s uploaded video still. Right: Signs like these litter the paths. This reads: “Your life is a precious gift from your parents. Think about them and the rest of your family. You don’t have to suffer alone.”)
I don’t understand why they brought a camera with them on this outing or why they even went through with publishing this video for his MILLIONS of followers to see. What I do know is that Logan Paul is entitled, arrogant and, most importantly, insensitive to a degree I don’t witness often. The long and the short of it is, while filming in this forest, they came upon a man hanging from a tree (I stopped breathing). Without hesitation, the video turns into a bunch of kids laughing about this poor man they came across. What horrifies me the most, more than the fact that this video was put up in the first place, is the idea that individual’s family found out via the internet. You all, I have a hard time even typing that because the image of his family coming across this video and seeing their father, son or brother hanging lifeless as people who don’t know him laugh hysterically in the background keeps popping into my head. Can you imagine the feeling of realizing there are millions of people exposed to the image of your loved one as they are the most vulnerable? The idea makes me sick and sad and I don’t know which one I’m more of. I do know I’m angry and I know I’m not alone.
I think Anna Akana’s tweet hits home the hardest for me. Those words have been burned into my mind over the last few days. Suicide is not funny. It isn’t a joke to be chuckled over with friends or made light of. This is an issue facing so many people who feel they have nowhere else to go and nothing left to live for. It’s my father, who felt alienated in a country that wasn’t his own. It’s my friend Joey in high school who felt like he had no other option. It’s our mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and friends. Suicide affects all people, regardless of race, color or creed; from friend to foe, heroes to villians. The fact that it’s treated so lightly is appalling.
In his apology, I sense no remorse. I see nothing addressing his behavior. What I do see are excuses and pompous behavior. “I didn’t do it for views,” he writes. No, he says he did it because he though he could “make a positive ripple on the internet”. Well, sir, there are ripples coming from what you did, but they are anything other than positive. YouTube pulled his account, as they SHOULD, and the world is left stunned by this insensitive and perverse behavior. The question is: What now? The problem doesn’t rest solely on Logan Paul’s shoulders, as we would all love to think. The thing about influence is that there is a trickling down of beliefs and ideas from the top all the way down to the bottom. The issue here isn’t just that he posted the video, it’s that hundreds of thousands of people liked that very video. ‘Liking’ anything these days is automatically giving your thumbs up of approval. It is instantly associating yourself with an ideology or way of thinking and the fact that so many people think this is acceptable is disturbing, a fact pointed out by fellow YouTuber Philip DeFranco.
I am so disheartened by this entire ordeal and I ache for that man in the woods the same way my heart breaks for my father, or anyone else, who feel they have no other recourse. There’s just no way I can imagine that level of hopelessness and I’ve never sunk that far into my sadness before. What I do know is that there’s plenty of help and available resources for those that feel there’s no way out. There is always someone to help or listen, but that means that we have to listen and sometimes it’s a scary thing to do. I wish my father, friends or acquaintances had felt more support. Maybe things would have turned out differently, maybe not. The trick to living with suicide is not driving yourself crazy with that kind thinking. All we can do, as a people and society, is offer love, help and understanding to those out there who need it most. If you suspect someone you love is struggling with suicidal thoughts, be understanding but do not keep it a secret. You are not helping them by hiding their intentions and you may not be equipped to deal with it all on your own. Most importantly, take action and get the help they need. There are so many places and centers out their that are available night and day to assist in these dire situations.
With all of this being said, I hope the internet has learned a little lesson. We all know it has a memory like an elephant, but does it have a heart? I struggle with this notion on a daily basis and I see it played out time and time again in a variety of scenarios. It’s scary for me to think that Logan Paul could make a comeback after all of this; that his lackluster apology could come off as heartfelt and he’ll be back to making millions in no time. But, what scares me the most, is that he is a role model for so many impressionable minds. Millions of people follow his various social media accounts and his face is all over those platforms. Logan Paul is not a role model, he is a pig. He is an insensitive and unthinking human being propelled to the forefront of internet with derogatory song lyrics and bad pranks. The filth he and his rivals spew across the internet is abundant and it’s unfortunate that there are so many people waiting to soak up the rubbish that he and anyone like him creates.
I don’t know how to end this post, if we are being completely honest. I have always been filled with a sense of turmoil over this subject. What I will leave you with are two things, a quote and a photo:
“Killing oneself is, anyway, a misnomer. We don’t kill ourselves. We are simply defeated by the long, hard struggle to stay alive. When somebody dies after a long illness, people are apt to say, with a note of approval, “He fought so hard.” And they are inclined to think, about a suicide, that no fight was involved, that somebody simply gave up. This is quite wrong.”
― Sally Brampton,
If you or anyone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, I urge you to seek help. You are worth it. ♥