Tuesday, September 27th
Death and Dying: Sociological Perspectives—Section Two
1. Suicide and Suicidal Behavior—one of the more inscrutable and idiosyncratic acts, suicide, remains clouded in mystery and incomprehension. As survivors of others’ suicides, we deal with the fundamental problems mentioned in Section One (survivor identity, guilt, missing, grief) as well as evocative tests—or challenges to our capacity to empathize (with the suicidal person) and, as previously discussed, challenges to our capacity to separate ourselves and our behaviors from the suicide itself (or to deal with a specific kind of survival guilt that forces us to reexamine our behavior in relation to an enigmatic other.
Thursday, September 29th
1. The Social Psychology of Suicide—a social psychological perspective focuses on individual decision making in particular situations—how individuals make existential choices (that reflect “moments of truth”) amid social variables, such as people present, the norms of place and time, and perceptions of right and wrong. In specific regard to suicide, the focus is on the individual with whom this suicidal individual has bonded, makes the unilateral choice to leave these individuals forever, creating bonding complications—from the point of view of survivors, the illusion of focused bonding becomes confused with a subtext of unfocused bonding.
[Clip from Thirteen Reasons Why]
In Thirteen Reasons Why, Hannah Baker has recorded thirteen cassette tapes prior to her suicide. She mentions various people on the tapes, who she blames for her forthcoming suicide. Hannah’s friend Clay listens to all the tapes and finds out that although he is mentioned, Hannah does not blame him. However, Clay cannot help second guessing himself—which is one key consequence of dealing with the suicide of a significant other.
Once Hannah has decided to commit suicide (her existential choice), she has established, through a firm commitment to end her life, a social pattern of acting—in which she stresses the performance dimension of herself rather than the substantial dimension of her core self.
One exception to Hannah’s performance-oriented presentation of self occurs when Hannah visits the high school counselor, Mr. Porter. Hannah attempts to open up and deal with the harassment, sexual abuse, bullying, betrayal, and abandonment she has experiences (both personally and as an observer). Mr. Porter, although serious and sympathetic, also makes several “professional errors,” especially when he suggests that Hannah “move on” from her experiences (after Hannah does not provide details, e.g., names, associated with her horrible experiences.
While Hannah does attempt to put the substance aspect of herself over the performance aspect of herself when talking to Mr. Porter, she still performs as she records her meeting with Mr. Porter and, subsequently, speaks to the microphone as she leaves the school (and heads toward her home to commit suicide). She still, in a way, continues to perform “for the record.”
Two people who do remain in Hannah’s corner and who remain loyal friends, Clay and Tony, attempt to piece together a logical sequence of events leading up to Hannah’s suicide. Clay, in particular, is especially determined to seek answers and explanations. For instance, he confronts a defensive Mr. Porter in regard to Mr. Porter’s failure to see the signs that Hannah had postponed her suicide when she met with Porter.
1. Suicide Ideation—refers, on the surface, to the thought of suicide, but can reflect different types of thought processes ranging from present centered, on-the-spot considerations to more enduring and serious contemplations involving explicit methodology and the precise sequences associated with one’s method of committing suicide.
Suicide ideation becomes especially interesting to Sociologists (going back to Emil Durkheim) in that it reflects the workings of a rational, systematic, and organized thinker who chooses to engage in an inscrutable, idiosyncratic, and seemingly unexplainable act.