Back in 2017 I wrote a piece on the Women Against Registry website titled “No More Suicides, Please!”
So, I was surprised when almost 2 years later, someone commented on that blog piece, someone who after 25 years on the registry still felt that he “wishes he would have ate a bullet long ago.” He had lost his family, his job, his home, his dignity, everything. It’s heartbreaking to imagine someone spending a quarter of their life wishing that he had “just ended it years ago”, all because of the registry.
What can we say to those awaiting sentencing, those in prison, those out on probation or those who are free but still under the constraints of the registry, that will discourage them from feeling as though taking their lives is the only answer to their problems?
Looking back through old news articles from around the country I came across article after article about registrants that have taken their lives. Registrants both young and old, those newly charged and those already years into their parole.
1998, a registrant hung himself a few days after police went door to door notifying neighbors that a “registrant” was now living in the neighborhood. 2011, a registrant on probation killed himself with a shotgun after he was assigned a new P.O. whose iron-fisted supervisory style was much different than his former P.O. In 2013, a 15yr old who faced being placed on the registry if found guilty of indecent exposure after being charged with “streaking during a H. S. football game” hung himself. And in 2017, a 16 yr. old committed suicide after being threatened with time on the registry because he allegedly audiotaped a consensual sexual encounter with a classmate.
For years we’ve read about the emotional toll the registry takes on people, the kind of pain and mental anguish that leads some registrants to take their own lives as a means to an end of their suffering. These are the suicides that we read about. How many registrants are out there suffering in silence that we don’t know about? How many will take their own lives out of the sheer desperation and fear that being on the registry brings?
And how many lives will it take before our government realizes that making the appropriate changes to these unfair and punitive laws can stop the suffering and put an end to these needless suicides?
There’s a quote I’ve heard many times “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
When faced with years to life on the registry, the problems registrants face certainly don’t feel “temporary”. Everyday there seems to be a new struggle to deal with, a higher hurdle to jump. Being on the registry is both physically and mentally exhausting. Everyday registrants and their families are left to wonder “what’s next, how much more can we take”? Trying to be strong and hold it all together for yourself and for your family can take its toll.
What do we do? How do we prevent ourselves or someone we love from becoming a suicide statistic?
By talking and listening.
If you are finding it difficult to deal with whatever you have going on, find someone to talk to. Talk to family, friends, your physician, mental health hotlines, contact 911 or go to the ER. There is help out there, but if you don’t let people know how bad things are getting, they don’t know you need some help.
And if someone you know seems to be struggling with issues, talk with them and listen to them, you don’t necessarily need to wait for them to come to you. Many people can’t or won’t ever ask for help, sometimes we just need to step up and offer it.
The registry is a “temporary problem”, how temporary, I can’t say, but there’s a lot of great people working to make things right, to put an end to a registry that continues to punish those who have already been punished too much.
Don’t let suicide be your permanent answer to a temporary problem.