I Still Think Suicide Is Selfish And No, I'm Not Ignorant For Believing So

I Still Think Suicide Is Selfish And No, I'm Not Ignorant For Believing So

We need to stop ridiculing people who believe differently than us.
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My eleventh grade teacher always reminded his students to remove phrases like "I believe," "I think" or "in my opinion" from first person essays. He said it was redundant to include them because anyone reading our work would know what we write is our personal opinion.

Mr. Ponikvar is correct to an extent. I think now, more than ever, it is so important to include those phrases in our social media posts. In regards to my recent article about suicide, I heard many complaints about my lack of compassion, awareness, and sensitivity.

But if there's one regret I have about my last article, it's this: I didn't emphasize enough that the words I wrote are my opinion, which are based on my personal experiences ranging from childhood through present day.

Let's get one thing straight — opinion does not equal fact. Almost every negative reaction my last article received was so consumed in an egotistical outlook, that many people forgot the foundation of an opinion. It is neither right nor wrong.

However, my fiancé brought up a good point as I wrote this article. Some opinions can be discredited, and that is exactly why it's so important to hear each other out and be open to different perspectives.

Everyone has different life experiences (education, religion, etc.), some might be more knowledgeable about a topic than you are. You’re allowed to have an opinion, but you should always be willing to admit that someone else might know something you don’t.

We can all learn from each other.

What hurts the most is people who call me ignorant or say things like, "You've obviously never experienced depression." The hurt I felt, however, wasn't for myself. It was for all of those people who ACTUALLY believe I don't know what I'm talking about simply because it contradicts their own knowledge and beliefs.

I'm writing this article as a partial follow-up to my last one, but I mainly want to talk about a larger issue that was brought to my attention through the conversation my article created.

Every single person is different. Everyone is raised differently than their parents, siblings, and neighbors. Everyone experiences different friendships, hardships, and feelings. Everyone has a right to believe in what they believe in, and no one should be ridiculed or belittled for thinking differently than anyone else.

Something important to know about me is that I was raised in a Latino-Christian household. Those aspects of my life played a huge role in the types of life lessons I was taught. One of the life lessons emphasized early on is that family is everything. Family comes first, and you should always do what you can to help your family before yourself or anyone else.

Mental illness and depression were taboo subjects growing up, mostly because I was surrounded by adults who believed depression was experienced by individuals who lived a life without Christ.

My depression was brought on at the young age of 14 when my best friend, Brittany Kirk, was murdered by her stepdad. The same stepdad we all joked around with and loved hearing tell jokes. No one saw it coming, and her murder, along with her brother and mother's, was a shock to everyone who knew their family.

It was a long road to healing, but I overcame my depression because anytime I heard about suicide, it was described as selfish.

"There's more to life than yourself and your sadness. You can't let your emotions overpower your common sense. God has a plan for you, and killing yourself is just plain stupid."

Those were the kinds of things I heard about suicide growing up. The only reason I didn't kill myself when I was 14 years old was because all those words flooded my mind. Despite the deep darkness that consumed my mind and heart, I knew ending my life wasn't the answer.

It would hurt and permanently scar the lives of my parents, siblings, nieces, nephews and so many others. I would set an awful example, and I would cause more damage than I could possibly imagine.

The opinion and belief that suicide is selfish saved my life, but many people think that kind of outlook is toxic. Regardless of how you were raised and what you have been taught to believe, you have to remember that everyone has a different outlook on life because of their upbringing and experiences.

Don't judge others based on their beliefs. They're entitled to them just as much as you are. No one can help what they're taught to believe, the people they meet, the schools they go to, etc.

No one opinion is more important than another. Just because a particular opinion is popular doesn't make it a fact.

Experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts does not automatically make you an expert on it or qualified to assume why Chester Bennington, or anyone for that matter, did it.

I don't care if you have a Ph.D., you will never completely understand my, or anyone else's, experience. Depression is experienced differently by everyone. No one can experience someone else's pain because it is caused by a unique experience, and they feel what they do based on their past, their ability to cope, and many other factors.

Some people label my opinion on suicide "toxic" while others label it "a revelation." At the end of the day, it is only an opinion based on my personal experiences, and no one can take that away from me.

I want to also point out people are not defined by their actions. By labeling suicide as selfish, I am in no way labeling a person who ends their life, selfish. Millions of people deal with horrible mental health issues, and I never have and never will take it lightly.

Depression affects everyone differently, which means there are some life-saving methods that work for some and others that don't. This phone number 1-800-273-8255 might save someone's life, but it didn't save mine.

You don't have to believe suicide is selfish, but some people do. Accept it, don't judge, continue to disagree if you want, but move on. There is no room for hostility or lack of respect when discussing other's opinions.

Let's do better.

Cover Image Credit: Cameron Hart Photography

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Pete, Even If You Might Not Want To Be On Earth Today, Please Fight For Tomorrow

Nobody knows your pain, but you deserve another chance to find your peace.

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Nobody knows what you're going through. We can all try to identify with it from our darkest moments, but we don't know.

You are dealing with something you thought you've figured out how to handle by now, but didn't know it could get worse.

Take a breath.

You have love in your life. That can be hard to see behind the hate people take out on you. Choose to see the love and not the hate. Hate is just words masking ignorance.

You've spoken out about your mental health in the past, and you aren't getting the respect you deserve for embracing the cards you were dealt.

We don't know your pain, but today, you told us just how bad it was.

We heard you. Don't quit.

Your name has been all over the media more than ever this year in bad ways and good. You didn't ask for that, and now you're here pushing to get through each day. Whatever is going through your head at this moment to get you to the point of this cry for help, just know that there is always tomorrow to try again.

You deserve tomorrow.

People abandon their lives every day. They get to the point where the suffering is too much and the appeal of escaping the noise becomes their idea of peace.

Don't escape the noise, please. There may not be one right answer to do that, and it will probably hurt like hell to figure it out, but you can do it. Your peace doesn't have to be escaping life.

Fight the world, fight the noise, fight your illness.

We have lost too many good souls in this world because the evil took over. Please, don't join them. Their cries for help were maybe missed or ignored and they didn't get the chance to try again.

It may not feel like it, but your peace is out there. Fight to find it.

You are overwhelmingly loved and there are so many people out there right now fighting to make sure you are and will be OK. Realize the wealth of love and support surrounding you will help you get through your struggles.

You can make it to tomorrow. Please keep living.

IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW ARE STRUGGLING WITH SUICIDAL THOUGHTS AND/OR TENDENCIES, REACH OUT IMMEDIATELY. NO ONE SHOULD GO THROUGH THIS ALONE. SUICIDE IS SERIOUS.

National Suicide Hotline: 1 (800) 273-8255 - available 24/7

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Just Because You Can Throw A Ball Does Not Mean Your Rape Is Admissible

Why are university athletes more likely to commit sexual assault?

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I wish rape didn't seep into every sphere of my life. But, like ink, it has.

Interpersonally, my childhood friend was gang-raped by members of the University of North Texas basketball team. As uncovered in an investigation, her circumstances were not isolated, unlike what it says in UNT's initial statement. I am proud to know my friend. I am proud to stand with her. However, I am ashamed at the situation and the commonness of her suffering among students just like me, on college campuses.

Politically, Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, promotes new fortifications for students accused of sexual assault. Basically, the rules would reduce the legal classification of harassment while offering protections for those accused of wrongdoing. In my emotions, I firmly believe in the American ideal of being "innocent until proven guilty". However, even in a crime so entrenched in emotions, I must look at facts. Facts say that the falsification rate of rape is the same as most other crimes, somewhere around 5%. Therefore, I believe that DeVos' proposal would tilt investigations in favor of the committer and significantly lessen the number of victims who would have the assurance to come forward and tell his/her story. In a campus-setting, where 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted, her "solution" adds gasoline to a country-wide fire.

Educationally, Brock Turner, a swimmer at Stanford University received just six months in county jail after being found guilty of five felonies, all of which amount to him raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. In defense of the light sentence, the judge said, "the more time (Turner spends) in jail, the more severe impact" on his future, who wanted to go to the Olympics. Never mind the future of the victim.

First off, rape culture, a sociological concept in which sexual assault is pervasive and normalized, exists. And while it exists everywhere, I can only speak with any authority on the campus setting, where hook-up culture is both catalyzed and camouflaged. Here, the area that needs the most treatment is in the locker room, on the court, or on the field.

Student athletes are proportionally the greatest perpetrators of sexual misconduct.

While a tiny 3% of male students are athletes, male student athletes are responsible for almost a fifth of sexual assaults on campus. And that is just the events that are reported, (just so you know, about 3 out of 4 go unreported). However, the NCAA has no policy that lessens a student's athletic eligibility in the face of sexually violent behavioral patterns. If you have allowed these numbers to simmer in your mind, you can see that this is unacceptable.

Why are university athletes more likely to commit sexual assault?

Most experts make cultural and institutional arguments.

Culturally, student athletes are not seen as "normal" students – rather, they provide a service to the college. Where most students get something from the college, student athletes give to the college, and we should be so lucky to have them grace us with their presence. It is a part of the status quo: high-status students on campus are athletes, especially males who play the most popular sports, like football, basketball, or baseball. These students carry social privilege.

Obviously, athletes are not naturally ethically worse than other students. I am simply saying that absolutely no one is immune to the culture that surrounds him/her, and we have a weird culture.

On average, athletes are more likely than other students on campus to buy into the cross-cultural concept of robust masculinity, which, in extreme cases, can lead to increased sexual aggression. Don't just take it from a non-athlete like me. Even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, an NBA champion and a former UCLA basketball player, declared the cultural privilege from which he benefited.

"I'm especially aware of the culture of entitlement that athletes feel... they strut around campus with the belief that they can do no wrong."

I am not going to sugarcoat the point that we all know well: football players are comparable to celebrities on campus, which has dangerous implications for a certain untouchability in mindsets.

Institutionally, colleges are as inclined to protect the perpetrator over non-athletic peers. A Senate report concluded that administrators tend to do three actions to protect their athletes, and therefore, their brand.

1. Higher-ups at the school discourage victims from reporting to police outside of the university. In this method, they let the campus police "handle it" and not report to less-biased city forces.

2. Admins downplay an assault's severity, making it less 'criminal', more unintentional and of an event to "move on from".

3. The athletic department can work with the administration and strategically delay proceedings while athletes finish their season.

If these three things are not enough as far as systemic ethical transgressions go, when athletes are found responsible for sexual assault, they may face small consequences.

Just to pull an infamous example from my home state of Texas, Baylor University continues to wrestle with how to deal with battery; I don't need to go over the sheer amount of claims that they were conscious and compliant to most allegations of assault involving their student-athletes.

So, not only is our mindset messed up, but the administration who is supposed to protect us is similarly bungled.

Obviously, athletes are not bad people, only people that are subject to their environment and protected by their talent. But crime is crime. The unnamed victim of Brock Turner said it well as she argued that being "an athlete at a university should not be an entitlement to leniency, but an opportunity to send a message that sexual assault is against the law" no matter your status.

Throwing a ball does not make someone above the rules.

Yes, I realize that my words have become trite. Scary articles, documentaries, and books about the sheer magnitude of sexual crime in college abound. But I see my seemingly-repetitive diction more as a reflection of our fallen collegiate system, rather than of myself.

With my article, I only ask that you keep fighting for victims like my childhood friend, for the classmate who sits next to you in lecture, for yourself. This institutional and social discrepancy of "athletics above all else" happens at more universities than I had the breath to mention.

Your first step is taking a searing examination at the failure of American universities to grapple successfully with campus rape in the systematic pattern of protecting student athletes more than other students. The next steps follow naturally. Take part in the activism at your school, encourage survivors, and productively confront the problem. Fear not, the policies will change with your effort.

Politics aside, we are in a time for you to continue speaking the truth, even if your voice trembles.

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