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).