Friday, January 13, 2012

When "It Gets Better" Isn't Good Enough

Eric James Borges, dead at 19
Why are some of the gay teens who make It Gets Better videos still killing themselves?

Three days ago 19 year-old gay California teen Eric James Borges ended his life. One month before his death, EricJames, as he liked to be called by his friends, participated in the It Gets Better project. In the five minute video he produced for the program, he paints a vivid picture of the shame and painful rejection he experienced as a gay teen, but by the end of his video, he assures other GLBT youth that their lives will eventually become easier, as they grow and mature, and gain new experience and perspectives.

In September 2011, 14 year-old Jamey Rodemeyer, who was also a bullied and ostracized gay teen, ended his life. Four months prior to his death, Jamey, like EricJames, recorded a video for It Gets Better in which he urges other struggling GLBT kids to be strong, and then convincingly reassures them that their lives, while tough right now, will most assuredly improve over time. 

It's understandable how the current generation of teenage kids are naturally drawn to the internet to connect with others who may understand and empathize with their struggles. It's also logical that kids who have been raised in our age of vast technological interconnectedness use the internet to find solutions to the sometimes seemingly hopeless situations in which they find themselves. 

What is less clear and far more disheartening is that teens like Jamey and EricJames would actually discover many of the programs made available to them, and even participate in using these resources to assist both themselves and others, and then still choose to take their own lives. Somehow, these kids were selfless enough to try and convince others who are suffering that "it gets better," while clearly never really buying into the message themselves.

Jamie Hubley, dead at 15
The distressingly long string of gay teen suicides in the last year, which included 15 year-old Jamie Hubley, has gained significant national media attention in recent months. 

Many of us have wept over the wasteful and unnecessary sacrifice of these precious lives, but that is not enough. 

As individuals, we must be shining beacons to all kids who may be struggling to accept or understand their sexual orientation. We must send a message loudly and clearly through our words and our actions that says you are loved and accepted as you are. We must reach out and steer these troubled teens to the resources that we know are available to them, AND then we must follow through to make sure they take full advantage of the support that exists. 

As a society, we must conduct an in-depth examination of this incredibly upsetting trend, and we must find out what more we should do. It Gets Better is certainly a wonderful and effective program, but it is just as certainly not enough to save every child who struggles. Through science and study and sharing, we must determine and execute the next necessary steps, be they procedural, clinical, pharmaceutical, or simply acts of lovingkindness, to guarantee that at-risk GLBT youth receive all the support needed to save their lives.

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