You may recall the title from early Beatles music. I was an infant when it was released in the UK in 1965. A few years later, I heard it on an album and thought that it was some kind of weird love song—not the plea that I have come to understand today. I guess that is why my current perspective hit home when someone mentioned to me that people who are most likely to help others are often likely to need help themselves. In retrospect, it seemed odd that someone would actually ask for help. But I think the Beatles and my friend were right.
In my personal experience, the basis for my willingness to volunteer was often a search for self-help in the form of community outcry, attempts to regain a small voice, or the hope for some level of justice. The stance announces an unusual combination of both representative power and timidity in that saying, “I will help you” is empowering while simultane-ously being unable to ask for help is not. This should not be.
For years, I have been entrenched in seeking advances in justice through avenues that pan out about 50/50 in terms of personal vs. social injustice. Sometimes there is crossover. But something that comes to mind where there isn‟t crossover but where there is social injustice is the current bul-lying of the gay population that has unfortunately led to suicides.
First, let me state that I think it is reprehensible for anyone to be driven to suicide for any reason. But, I think it is equally reprehensible to make bullying a rallying point for the gay community when the problem is larger in other populations.
For example, the suicide rate for the elderly population has a notably higher completion ratio for each attempt and suicides are occurring with twice the frequency on a smaller population (Moore, S.L. A Phenome-nological Study of Meaning in Life in Suicidal Older Adults. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing , Vol. XI, No. 1 (February 1999), pp. 29-36). “Although many people assume that the highest rates of suicide are among the young, older white males age 85 and older actually have the highest suicide rate” according to the National Institute on Mental Health National Institutes of Health NIH Publication No. 08 3561 (2008, pg. 8). In addition, the suicide rate released by the Department of Veterans Affairs show a 26 percent increase in the suicide rate from 2005 to 2007 of young men aged 18-29 years of age (http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=49971). Though it is difficult to determine if bullying by anti-war protestors has played a role in decisions of these veterans to take their own lives, it cer-tainly cannot be ignored when even student activists vandalize Veterans Memorials that were just erected at the University of Central Florida cam-pus (November 2010).
Second, identifying the issue as "gay only‟ marginalizes the population who actually suffer from a disproportionate suicide rate, often caused by similar actions like bullying which are part of a series of recognized methods used to ostracize a group or single person. Other methods include rejection and social exclusion according to Kipling D. Williams, Joseph P. Forgas and William von Hippel--authors of the 2005 book, “The Social Outcast: Ostra-cism, Social Exclusion, Rejection, and Bullying” published by Psychology Press in New York.
I believe that any preventable death matters. Every life matters. But, it is also important to acknowledge the unknown extent to which lives have been destroyed when those who were victims of social ostracism did not commit suicide but suffered the long-term impact of shame and rejection.
Third, as a people, we have accepted ostracism, exclusion, rejection and bullying as an acceptable path to achieve our own personal agenda by pushing conformity or desen-sitizing various opponents by pushing issues repeatedly. Unions dog the new guy for being more productive and he must be taught a lesson that around here we only do x amount of output for y hours. Medical interns struggle with incredible consecutive hours known to decrease learning capacity but are indoctrinated in this method because that is how the previous physicians earned their stripes. Managers do nothing about legitimate complaints and wait for employees to be beaten into submission. In a nation of "melting pot‟ citizens who espouse diversity, how can we continue to think that this is acceptable? Does anyone find this contradictory or can you only achieve the American dream if you steal mine?
Finally, I say all this to ask this question, “What are we doing to each other in the name of personal agenda?” The battle scarred are fighting the walking wounded and the wounded give way to anyone who will listen. This also should not be.
The concept of grass root organizations was to provide a mechanism for change when voices went unheard in the echoing halls of our historical institutions. Now those voices alienate a large portion of the population by holding onto or creating single agendas without embracing the real issues. The issues include reviewing why this behavior has been allowed to grow in society. And, the solution must include focus on the people who are hurting.
It should not matter that I am white, female and Republican. What mat-ters is that there is an alarming rate of suicide brought on by the increas-ing cruelty in humanity. Did it start because we thought it was ok to abort our children? Did it start because we thought it was ok to look the other way so that we could advance in your career? Whatever way it started and escalated, it is not going to end by approaching this from the gay-lesbian front. This is not just a gay-lesbian issue.
We must recapture the thread of common goals in the sea of special in-terests—never alienating the small voice, but balancing it against the larger picture. Each of us is a small Monet. Stand back, look at the greater picture that can only appear when little dots fit together. Band together to stop suicide. Help! We all need somebody, too.