1/5/2021: Moving The Suicide Conversation Forward


The names change & but the tragic game remains the same.

A number of months ago I shared the story of the passing Hilary Tisch – daughter of the NY Giants owner, John Tisch. The girl who had it all – looks, success, a kind heart heavily involved in giving back.

Just recently it was Tony Hsieh, the charismatic founder & leader of Zappos. 

Now it strikes again. Thomas Raskin, son of congressman Jamie Raskin.  The common thread of all three, & countless others I’ve shared (like UPenn’s Head of Counseling, & the Top Doc out of Virginia fighting on the front lines of the pandemic): People who were incredibly gifted, kind souls, seeming had the world at their fingertips, gone to suicide.

Jamie Raskin & his wife penned an obituary yesterday, that was a celebration of Tommy’s life & the incredible gifts he had & heart he’d shown throughout his 25 yrs.

In grade school he’d started a peer tutoring program, starred on the Debate Team, wrote over 100 essays & many long polemical poems that he performed in front of other students.

He’d go on to attend Amherst as an undergrad, & became a huge animal rights activist & championed many other social causes.

He then went on to Harvard Law School & in his second yr, as  TA, donated half his salary to save ppl from arnd the world from malaria, by purchasing mosquito nets. The other half he donated to other charities in the names of his students.

In his personal life, the Raskins share that Thomas was spoiled w adoration from mom & dad, two sisters, & band of cousins. 

He had all of the above, & so what happened? Disease happened. MH lives on a continuum. We are ALL impacted. Some w mild symptoms & some, like Thomas, to the level of disorder (depression). The bigger the heart for others, often, the weight of the world appears to be a contributing factor.

In a society where we shy away from discussing suicide, the Raskin’s tribute & share was a gift of openness about a disease.They wrote: Like w covid where we have lost many to a disease, their Don too was lost to a disease.  If we’re to see change, we must openly discuss this w/o shame.

In a society where we are afraid to talk about suicide – erroneously assuming it was the fault of the diseased, the Raskins – by openly discussing the cause of death just days after the loss, gifted the world important clarity. Suicidal thought take one over. This is most often NOT a plotted out decision where pros & cons are weighed. From a young man w the gift of writing beautiful art here was the full transcript of the note he left. Does this sound like someone rationally able to weigh options, or one where their brain was hijacked? You decide, but I think the answer is obvious: 

“Please forgive me. My illness won today. Please look after each other, the animals, and the global poor for me. All my love, Tommy.”

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