Day 3: Something you feel strongly about.
I'd like to share a story today. On Friday, a beautiful ten-year-old fifth grade girl named Ashlynn Conner committed suicide in her home. Yesterday was her funeral. Her picture is to your right.
This breaks my heart.
When I first read the article about young Ashlynn, about how her teenage sister found her hanging from a scarf in her closet, about two weeks before she had come home from school and begged to be home-schooled because of the bullying she faced each day, I burst into tears. Ten years old. Ashlynn was still the age to play with dolls and make up games on the playground, not to be contemplating her own death.
Ten years old.
Obviously, something must be done about the bullying. Students at Ashlynn's school called her a "slut" and teased her because of her weight... although look at the picture to the right, I don't see anything but a beautiful little girl with a smile that could light up any room. If the bullying in public schools has gotten so bad that fifth grade girls are turning to suicide, then there is obviously a huge problem.
However, I'd like to discuss something else I feel strongly about that involves Ashlynn's death.
I feel like suicide is taken far too lightly. Popular websites like Go Cry Emo Kid joke about dark and depressed young people, self injury, and even suicide. Everyone seems aware of suicide these days and it seems like I hear jokes about it on a weekly basis. Almost every day, I see fellow students bringing a finger to their head and pretending to shoot themselves out of frustration about school work or stress... not seriously, of course, but as a joke... like suicide is "funny." I've spoken to groups of young girls and received multiple emails from readers of this blog and it seems like many, many young people have contemplated or even attempted suicide before the age of eighteen. I did as well.
What is it that has made life seem like something to be thrown away so easily?
It's almost as if contemplating suicide has been accepted as a normal behavior of young people, and that is entirely unacceptable. It's not okay. Life is meant to be valued and treasured, not hated and destroyed.
Look at the face of beautiful Ashlynn Conner. Look at her smile, at the light in her eyes. With one stupid mistake, she has thrown away her life. She has broken the heart of her family and friends. She has taken away her bright future on this earth. And part of me wonders if she even fully understood what she was doing and how final death actually is, or if she was simply following what has become a terrible, terrible option.
I lost a good friend to suicide. He was only fifteen years old at the time. His decision was impulsive and hurt so many people who knew and loved him. He was extremely talented, loving, and smart. He loved music and was the best guitarist I've ever met. I saw what my friend's actions did to his friends and family and to my own heart. I grieved for him. After my friend committed suicide, I was quickly forced to learn what suicide really meant, the finality and pain and selfishness of it all... and I was horrified to have to admit to myself that even I had dealt with those issues myself only a year before. Until suicide affected me personally, I had no idea how serious it actually was.
Please, please never joke about suicide. It isn't funny. It isn't okay. It only breaks hearts and ends bright futures.
And finally, I feel like suicide is made to be too much of an option. We talk about how bullying leads to suicide so often and they even have little workshops in a lot of schools and health classes to raise awareness about what red flags to look for in your friends... and I'm torn about it. To an extent, raising awareness about suicide is a good thing. It can save lives. But does the magnitude of awareness being made about suicide in high schools, middle schools, (and now even elementary schools) only place the idea of suicide in young students' minds? I'm not sure. Ashlynn had to get the idea from somewhere. I was bulied in the fifth grade, but I'm not sure if hanging myself would ever have even occurred to me as a ten-year-old girl.
When I saw Ashlynn's photograph and heard her story for the first time, I cried. Even now, my heart breaks for her family and for her lost future. And my heart also breaks for her bullies. They were so young as well and they will hold the guilt of Ashlynn's death in their hearts for a very, very long time. Let's be sure to lift up everyone who knew Ashlynn in prayer this week and whenever we remember her sweet smile.