10 Oct 2016 (World Mental Health Day)
When I was 17 years old (circa 1991), my science teacher Mr Atkinson died by suicide. It shocked me on many levels. When I was that age I didn’t yet feel like an adult. I still looked up to older people as having life sorted out, unlike me. So when an adult I knew, died by suicide it rocked my world. Initially I was told he’d gone missing. I thought maybe he just needed a break from things.
Then a day or two later there was a school assembly. We were told that he’d killed himself. It was traumatic to me.
One teacher in particular mocked him and joked about him killing himself in front of other students. I won’t name this teacher as I hope he’s matured since then, and I believe people need to be challenged one to one so they can be given a chance to resolve the issue and apologise. His attitude shocked me. It seemed heartless, and a couple of other teachers joined in. He was a teacher… so what was this teacher, teaching his students? Stigma? That people that kill themselves should be mocked, and are weak? Just awful behaviour from someone who should set an example to young people.
No-one talked about it that much afterwards. The school assembly happened and that was that. The archetypal stiff British upper lip played out. My parents didn’t mention it. No teachers mentioned it. A couple of people were upset, but didn’t talk about it much. After a couple of days it seemed that the whole affair was shut away in a dark dank cupboard in the poorly lit basement. What was this teaching people? To bottle things up? To see suicide as a mere inconvenience?
On a positive I feel these days teachers and other staff would deal with it better. There weren’t school counsellors when I was at school, and almost zero awareness of mental health issues.
Input From You
- How would a modern school deal with a teacher (or student) suicide now?
- Did you have a similar or different experience?
Copyright MEN HEAL 2016.