Tag Archive: suicide

Karen Schneiderman testifies against NJ assisted suicide bill S382

TESTIMONY BEFORE THE

SENATE HEALTH, HUMAN SERVICES, AND SENIOR CITIZEN COMMITTEE

IN OPPOSITION TO S 382 / A 2270, NEW JERSEY DEATH WITH DIGNITY ACT

DECEMBER 8, 2014

Karen Schneiderman, PhD

Boston MA

My name is Karen Schneiderman, and I work for the Boston Center for Independent Living.. I am a woman with a disability who lives in the state of Massachusetts and has deep distrust about the motives and needs to institute assisted suicide in New Jersey or anywhere.

We live in a culture that does not value people with disabilities. We are considered a financial burden and a frightening look at most people’s potential future. Our lives are perceived as sad and lonely. As a productive woman, with two jobs, a Ph.D., married and living an “ordinary” life, I resent this stereotype and I worry that I would be just the sort of person who might be a good candidate for assisted suicide were I terminally ill or suffering and unable to be cured of some additional illness or disability in addition to the one I was born with – Spina Bifida.

The medical profession has at times been both a friend and an enemy to me, saving my life at birth and experimenting on me later in life. This profession is a profit-driven institution that makes decisions based on financial as well as medical issues and were I to be in a situation where I were so sick that it became financially burdensome to the State, I suspect many physicians would support my decision to kill myself with their help. I can hope that family members will be around to help me through the depression but one cannot be sure of this. It is easy to see why in such a state I might decide with the help of “experts” to choose death.

          Depression is clearly the reason and the time one chooses to look for help in killing her/himself. It is also the exact time one is in the worst possible position to make a rational decision. Depression is no reason to die or be killed. It can be treated in ways many other illnesses cannot.

       

The GWB: A Bridge to Manhattan, Yes, But for Others A Conduit to Finality

Cross Posted from http://kurzglobe.blogspot.com/…

The George Washington Bridge. That vital trans-Hudson span and architectural wonder has been in the news quite a lot lately. Of course the bridge’s Fort Lee approaches are at the center of several investigations concerning whether or not they were purposely bottlenecked last September at the behest of Governor Christie (though certainly, members of his office were at the center of the bottleneck). Whether or not the Bridge will bring down the governor, time will tell.

Ever since I was a kid, “The Bridge” has always been at the center of a dramatic trip. Coming from New Jersey, you don’t really see the span until you’re right upon it. While traversing it, one can really take in its majesty as it launches from the Jersey Palisades, over the wide, blue Hudson waters and into the world’s principal metropolis. For millions of motorists and travelers, it is a bridge to wonders, to opportunities, to the Yankee Game, to an evening in the Big City.

Still, since its completion in 1928 the bridge has served a more nefarious, disheartening purpose. For so many people, the bridge has been a final destination, a conduit, an otherworldly span, and a terrifying shortcut to the Afterlife.

A glance at area news sources prove that, just over the past two weeks, leaping from the span has been the primary method of attempted and successful suicide attempts. On May 1 of this year a couple jumped to their death in the waters far below; several others have tried and been ‘talked down’ by police and passersby. In these difficult financial times, some people are finding themselves especially desperate. The lack of affordable, prompt, comprehensive care for the mentally ill doesn’t help either. And thus, The Bridge lurks, always nearby, twinkling at night, always accessible.

The bridge was finished in 1928, seemingly just in time for the Great Depression which followed a year later. The Depression years took a devastating financial and personal toll on millions, and some of them made their way to The Bridge in a distressed effort to escape the times.

As a local historian and history teacher, I try to remind my readers and students that history is more than just wars and diseases and assassinations. It’s the story of real people coping with real challenges that, from their point of view, might have no end. For many of The Bridge’s early jumpers of the 1930’s, this was certainly the case. Depressed, broke, alienated…during this era, research shows us that too many leapt to their demise – even when, apparently, under a doctor’s care.

One of the most touching and disturbing examples that I found occurred in late October 1932, when The Bridge was still new. Elizabeth Trivett, aged 28, walked to the span’s center and jumped into the Hudson. After a short investigation Police had found she drove in from Glen Ridge in Essex County. Her note was especially poignant, as well as disturbing:

“Telephone Bloomfield 2-0116 and tell the doctor I’ve done it. Made up my mind and gone ‘somewhere.’ I know dad and mother’s hearts will not survive this shock, so please give them something at once to ease their going. My way of going is lovely.”

As the Depression wore on, The Bridge successfully tempted jumpers from the flailing financial industry. In August 1935, Manhattan resident and bank vice president Claude Allnutt, 56, took his final leap. His story is particularly interesting. A self-made Maryland man, Allnutt was a highly educated college grad who worked himself up in the world, from clerk to bank executive. He was being treated for depression at the time, but apparently that did not stop him from making his tragic end. He left behind five children. The police officer that witnessed the jump claimed that Allnutt was particularly directed in his goal and did not hesitate for a moment before leaping. Others sometimes waited and wailed for hours, but not Allnutt.

Then there was April 19, 1938. On that infamous day two men jumped from the bridge, apparently unrelated to one another. Reports on the first jumper were hard to come by, but the second man, who could not be immediately identified, was about 65. The only clues to his identity and motive were the fact that upon paying his five cent pedestrian toll, he mentioned that he had broken his last dollar. His suicide note could not be immediately deciphered, as it was scribbled in Yiddish.  

The bridge continues to attract those who seek a final end. In 2012 alone 18 went to their deaths, with 43 more trying.

Suicide is an extremely personal and individual act. I really cannot suggest how the bridge might be made safer for those who are absolutely determined to end their lives. For those who are not contemplating that final act, The Bridge provides a spectacular pedestrian journey between New Jersey and New York. And the bridge is a long one; I don’t know how responsible we can hold local and Port Authority Police for patrolling every inch of it, looking for people who are seeking to end their lives. There are other, more pressing concerns for them, like preventing massive acts of terror and monitoring millions of motorists. But I know that many law enforcement officers who work in and on the span have received special training in dealing with the suicidal.

In the end, The Bridge will continue to stand. It will stand for progress, for the links that bring us together, and, unfortunately, for death.

Damn it.

This kid is dead now.

This is the It Gets Better home video made by 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer, posted just 4 months before he, apparently, took his own life outside his house this weekend.

Seems to me this kid had so much in his favor. Supportive parents. Wisdom to hook into the It Gets Better movement created by Dan Savage so older people could help pull young people through with a better picture of what their grown-up lives could be, if they can just slog through adolescence. In Jamey’s own It Gets Better video, he said he regretted creating a Formspring, a Q & A social media site that permits anonymous comments. Jamey’s account sounds like a battleground; hateful anonymous posts about his being gay, alongside signed posts from friends encouraging him not to listen to “the cowards” abusing him. Friends reported his abuse to counselors at his middle school. He was seeing a social worker, a therapist. He was even hip enough to be blogging about bullying, reminding people a couple weeks ago about Suicide Prevention Week. But he’s gone anyway.

This all happened in New York, not here.

But here in New Jersey, when school started days ago, the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act became a reality for schools all over the state. To be sure, schools are grappling with unfamiliar procedures, and regulations are still being honed. But hateful threats that gay people go to Hell goes on and on and on. Know what I did the night the NJ Senate voted down marriage equality? I was on my way to a Garden State Equality reception. But I got stopped by a young man with his best friend, a girl, who’d poured out volunteer labor for GSE. I apologized that we couldn’t do better for him. He told me he’d just called his mother to tell her the vote, looking for sympathy. His mother replied that he was unnatural and going to Hell.

Jamey’s suicide was New York, not here. But NY is New Jersey’s beacon right now, the equality state right next door. And one of the reasons ME is important is that it tells young gay kids in a way nothing else does that there’s a future for their fragile, new love lives. We lose kids for so damned many reasons – poverty, illness, malnutrition, violence. And we lose kids because they can’t imagine a future they can fit in.

In one of his last acts, Jamey thanked Lady Gaga for her music’s message of self-acceptance. In March, Gaga stood on a stage in Buffalo near where Jamey lived, and asked her audience to call state senator Mark Grisanti and tell him to reverse his opposition to marriage equality. They did. And a facebook campaign followed. Grisanti did in fact flip, and was one of the key votes that got ME passed in New York. And Grisanti was Jamey’s local state senator, a Republican. That’s something we can’t even get Democrats in New Jersey to do. So far.

I didn’t really write this for you guys. This readership gets it. I wrote this for your neighbors, the guy in the cubicle next to you, the kid that delivers your Sunday paper. It never hurts to be on the lookout for simple acts of meanness that may be some teenager’s last.

RIP, kid.

Disclosure: I’m on the board at Garden State Equality, but I’d write this anyway.

Tyler Clementi’s tormentor Dharun Ravi indicted on 15 counts

Tyler Clementi’s roommate, who secretly videoed him in a sexual encounter days before he leapt to his death off the George Washington Bridge was indicted today on 15 counts, including invasion of privacy, bias intimidation and tampering with evidence by a grand jury in Middlesex County. Yes, prosecutors say Dharun Ravi not only spied on Clementi’s most private moments, but he then tried to cover up what he did, by destroying evidence, and sending false tweets in an effort to throw police off his trail, according to the indictment released today.

Garden State Equality’s Steven Goldstein had this to say:

To those who say that Mr. Ravi’s conduct was merely a prank that students are apt to pull – and that somehow he should not receive a tough sentence – we say that’s nonsense.  That heinous philosophy has tragically done so much

to create a bullying epidemic in our state and nation in the first place.

Ravi and Molly Wei, who allegedly participated in the scheme to spy on Clementi are accused of secretly observing Clementi and a partner in the dorm room he shared with Ravi, and streaming it as it was happening via internet.  Both Ravi and Wei have withdrawn from Rutgers, which means there cannot be a university disciplinary hearing on their actions. The grand jury has not seen evidence against Wei yet; she may later face charges of her own.

Clementi’s parents intend to sue Rutgers University.

Clementi’s death rocked New Jersey. As awful, and as sad and frustrating it was, it was only one of a chain of torments young people, particularly gay young people, have had at the hands of others. New Jersey’s loss of student and musician Tyler, just 18, helped propel the NJ Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights and federally, the anti-bullying Tyler Clementi Act, which it must be said, some right-wing media describe as a “serious threat to free speech”.  

NJ Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, now waiting for Chris Christie’s signature

Our year was marked in January by the NJ Legislature’s failure to do the right thing on marriage equality, and as our year turned cold again, 2010 was marked by the  loss of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, who threw himself off the George Washington Bridge after two people he knew appeared to betray him. (A federal higher-education anti-harrassment bill, introduced by Frank Lautenberg in the Senate and Rush Holt in the House, is named for Tyler Clementi).  

But today was a sweet victory in NJ, something to be Thankful for as we sit down and think about our gratitudes later this week, for the kids – all kinds of kids – who may now benefit from our renewed commitment to respect them, particularly at the places where they go to learn. The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights passed both houses of the legislature today. It requires anti-bullying programs in public schools and codes of conduct in our colleges and universities.

We owe special thanks to: Prime Sponsors in the Assembly Valerie Vainieri Huttle & Mary Pat Angelini and in the Senate Barbara Buono, Diane Allen & Loretta Weinberg. Sponsors include Steve Sweeney, Senate President, Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver & Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce.

All that’s needed now is a signature from Gov. Chris Christie. Here’s some early response, after the jump. Please add your own if the spirit moves you.

NJ-12: “Bean Family”

Rush Holt has a new ad up in his race to keep the NJ-12 seat voters sent him to in 1998, he won a close race to keep in 2000, and has served since as one of the House’s most progressive members.

I have a military suicide in my family, many years ago during a war my older cousin was expected to fight when I was just a little kid. Tom’s death was called something else, not a suicide, and was attributed to other causes. The whole family (except my parents) went into decades-long denial. So, I’m happy to see the stresses on those we call to war talked about out loud, and systems put in place to get people the support and treatment they might need to to return to their home life after war. Holt’s legislation is named after Sergeant Coleman Bean. Holt wrote about Sergeant Bean for Blue Jersey. Many of us here have expressed that there’s little better we can do with our tax money than protect our soldiers the best we can during war, and take care of them best we can on their return.

Holt’s new ad, in his race against GOP hedge fund manager Scott Sipprelle, is called “Bean Family”. What do you think, Blue Jersey?