Lives Cut Short: Why are Suicides Common in People with Developmental Disabilities?

Physical bullying at school, as depicted in th...

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by Eric Pudalov, Community Events Coordinator

Is suicide an issue of concern among families of people with developmental disabilities?  If recent headlines and past recorded incidents are any indication, the answer is yes.  One recent article spoke of a particularly disturbing example.

To clarify, not all of the suicides mentioned in said article were committed by people with DD; one, however, was.  The individual in question was a high school student who struggled with constant bullying.  Having been developmentally delayed, in combination with hearing difficulties, sadly made her an easy target for threats and harassment.  The student eventually committed suicide.

Though all of the stories in the article were saddening, this one in particular hit me very strongly, in no small part because I, too, dealt with bullying in school, especially after having my brain surgery.

The first year I returned to school (9th grade, to be specific), I had been placed in low-level classes to reduce my workload, and started the year with only two classes.  Prior to that, I had been in accelerated-level classes, and had had a full schedule like the rest of the students.  In addition, at the end of my new schedule, I rode the so-called “shortbus” home, which, in the eyes of some other students, made me a “retard.”

I’ve already expressed my opinion about the use of such language in general, but to have it used against me made me realize how others with disabilities felt when they were the targets of derision.

In retrospect, I can see that in some of my classes that year, because the work still came rather easily to me (in spite of having the brain surgery), many of the other students became jealous.  Truly, I feel more sympathy for them, being that they, too, struggled academically, and had to put someone else down in order to feel superior.

I feel fortunate, on the other hand, that I had much of the necessary support (rehab and counseling, to be specific) to get through such difficult times, and never resorted to attempting suicide.  Ideally, I would like to see the same situation for many more students out there.

Perhaps the solution is just to promote more awareness of these problems, and try to get to the root of why certain students are singled out (before they do the unthinkable).

About gcsscommunity

My name is Eric Pudalov, and I work as Community Events Coordinator with Georgia Community Support and Solutions, whose mission is to provide creative, life-enriching solutions to people with developmental disabilities and their families. I became interested in this field, however, due to having a disability myself; namely, I had brain surgery in 1996 at age 14, to remove a benign tumor. Following this, I had many difficulties with short-term memory, loss of strength, confusion, and emotional control. Fortunately, at present, I've recovered much of what I'd lost. Despite some setbacks, I graduated high school with honors, and received an academic scholarship to Adelphi Univ., where I earned a BA in Communications. Since then, I've held a number of different jobs and internships, among them a TA position at Sylvan Learning Center, and work as a "Service Leader" with Hands on Atlanta. Since living in GA, I've also been involved with two programs (including GCSS) that serve people with disabilities. My experience has included sharing apartments with adults with autism and other disorders. Though my so-called "limitations" may differ from those of others in the program, these experiences have helped me to realize that people, overall, are capable of much more than we may at first perceive. Search Engine Submission - AddMe
This entry was posted in Autism, Brain Injury, Concepts, Disabilities, Disability Benefits, Opinion, Professionalism, Suicide in Disabled Students and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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