Suicide in Judaism is forbidden. It violates one of the most important principles therefore choose Life. I wrote about this idea in my Yom Kippur Morning Sermon. Choosing life ought to inform our decision-making. And Suicide violates that principle. As does murder.
All suicide is tragic but the four gay young people who committed suicide in the last few days were particularly devastating. These young people had everything to live for including a world that is increasingly a place of equality for gay and lesbian folks. And yet there is still stigma for being gay.
The truth is teen suicide especially as the result of bullying is at epidemic proportions. 1 in 3 gay teen attempt suicide. Young people are harassed even for the perception of being gay or lesbian.
Young Seth Walsh, a seventh grader, was bullied and hung himself. His funeral is today in Tehachapi.
Young Asher Brown of Texas another 13-year-old shot himself to death. He had been so sad about the incessant bullying and teasing by fellow classmates.
And college freshman Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge so humiliated by the web broadcast of his sexual encounter by his roommates at Rutgers.
And15 year old Billy Lucas of Indiana was tormented by his classmates regularly. He hung himself in his family’s barn.
These weren’t suicides. In each case this was nothing short of murder. Judaism also forbids Murder.
The first week of October is National Bullying Prevention Month. We adults need to make sure that the word gets out. Here is information about this month.
The Trevor Project is a 24 hour hotline and suicide prevention line for LGBT and Questioning Youth. They have amazing suicide prevention resources.
GLSEN, the Gay and Lesbian and Straight Educators Network also has incredible resources in this area. They have been leading the way working to introduce federal anti-bullying legislation. The Safe Schools Improvement Act (HR 2262 and S3739). There are 118 bipartisan co-sponsors of this legislation that will help schools implement anti-bullying policies including federal funding that will help implement and change the culture of teasing and bullying in educational institutions.
These four teen suicides/murders speak to the urgency of the problem. Whether you have kids or not this needs to be a priority for us all. Just like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, creating a safer environment and a zero-tolerance for bullying ought to be all of our responsibility. What kind of society have we made?
May the memories of Seth, Tyler, Aaron, and Billy and the countless others be for a blessing.