Movies and suicidal teens: Why Cinemalaya’s #Y makes me feel uneasy

Back in college, I was once forced to defend the moral acceptability of suicide in a debate. In my effort to win for our team, I said there’s an unwarranted social stigma against people who are just exercising a legitimate solution to their problems, and on the basic level, killing yourself doesn’t impinge on the rights of other people anyway, so really, it shouldn’t be an issue at all. I argued that there’s a need a demystify the very personal decision of taking one’s life, that there shouldn’t be a problem in ending it because it’s yours anyway, like a personal property no one should have an opinion about or power over. If you have a car and your neighbor blows it up, you can sue him, because it’s not his. But if you blow up your own car without any collateral damage, you’re perfectly fine. It’s the same with life, if you can accept the crude analogy.

In some countries like Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Colombia, and some states in the United States (Oregon, Washington, Vermont, New Mexico), assisted suicide- the one where a physician usually administers a lethal drug to the person- is legal. I’m alright with the idea of killing yourself, but if and only if you’re terminally ill. If it’s about suicide of an otherwise healthy individual who seems resigned to his/her sad life, I think the government should err on the side of prudence and focus on the value of promoting life and positivity instead of telling its citizens it’s okay to be defeatist.

I was never a fan of killing one’s self, and I still am. At that time, though, I had to win a debate round, so I tried arguing why it’s okay, even if you’re healthy. But it’s not, okay? Killing yourself when you’re not terminally ill is not cool.

Two years later, still in college, I had to write a paper on suicide reporting, and it was then that I learned more about suicide. Contrary to popular belief, suicide isn’t caused by a singular event, say, losing a bet in a casino or having your humiliating sex tape leaked into social media. Suicide is caused by a confluence of factors: toxic environment, unhealthy family dynamics, bad friends, lack of support systems and a host of other things that only need a trigger to blow up. That is why the Society of Professional Journalists reminds reporters not to attribute a person’s suicide to a singular event, because psychology shows that motivations behind killing one’s self are way deeper and more complex that what we usually think. What separates the suicidal people from the normal ones is that the normal ones are capable of overcoming problems because they are free from the lethal combination of external factors that drive them to their breaking point. Suicidal people have it differently, which is why I was slightly disturbed after seeing #Y, one of the entries in this year’s Cinemalaya (Philippine independent Film Festival).

#y

See the movie’s trailer here.

[SPOILER ALERT]

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