Wednesday, November 09, 2005

My Student Kills Himself

I've blogged frequently on the topic of student suicide (Student Suicide Rates in Taiwan, More on Student Suicide Rates in Taiwan, Suicide and the Media in Taiwan) but I still do not know how to regard its intrusion in my own life. I've decided, though, that there's two things I hate -- suicide and war, because they both lay waste to the young.

I won't go into any details, but a senior in my department, in a couple of classes, killed himself on monday. He needed help. And others around him needed help. And didn't get it. From anyone. And so many people were hurt. And a life went to waste.

Suicide constantly intrudes its loathesome presence into our lives in Taiwan. It is not a comfort that gets us through many a cold night. It is the lair of a cannibal god.


Jason said...

That's terrible news, Michael. I'm sorry to hear about that.

Anonymous said...

That's sad. Due to the pressure from school and parents, most students need help but unable to get it. This is considered a weakness in the family or just in the mind. They can't take stuff like that over time, suicide is a way to end it....schools need in-house consoling, but I doubt that's going to work. Either you make it or you don't. Take it like a man! Maybe your classes are too hard? :) Take it easy on the Chinese fellas!

Michael Turton said...

You know, I really didn't understand how pissed off I was until I attempted to write about it. I had to chop a lot out of this blog entry. I am just furious. A. criminal. waste. I am tired of people killing themselves over trivial transient shit. There's too much suicide about.

The Spaceman said...

I don't know what to say, but I feel compelled to say sorry. I think you and I agree on this subject wholeheartedly. There is simply too much suicide on this island.


Carr said...

Once a guy in my high school in Italy committed suicide. I never met him, never knew who he really was, but I remember feeling so weak and disillusioned about it. When a minor dies, you ask yourself what's the point of it, and of living until 17 to die pointlessly. How can something so cruel as that can exist?

Suicides in Italy are quite rare for students, and yet they seem too many, far too many. Whatever it's wrong with Taiwan, I feel so bad thinking so many people go through what I've felt few years ago.
I'm really sorry about this

Jonathan Benda said...

I've noticed a marked increase in depression among students since I came back in 2002--I don't know if it's an actual increase or more willingness to talk about it. But it worries me. A former student of mine--a dear, dear young woman who seemed so full of life--committed suicide a few years ago. It was so very hard to take as a teacher. It's easy to wonder about what you did, or what you didn't do... I know I did.

Mickey said...

I am so sorry to hear this, Michael.

This is so true: "I am tired of people killing themselves over trivial transient shit."

rmdazwdv said...

How many students are there in Taiwan? How many kill themselves per day? At what age and what time of year?

Anonymous said...


Japan has problems with suicide as well.

Kids sometimes do it in pairs there - jump off a building together. Sometimes they land on someone walking down the street and kill them too!

When I was living in Japan I raced bikes. I knew one of the Team Honda mechanics. Apparantly, at a National, the bike the top rider was using broke down during the moto. The mechanic was the last to work on the bike.

After they arrived back to the race shop everyone unloaded and then went home.

The mechanic got into his car, drove out to the practice track out back, got out and hung himself on a tree.

I had a student who was an Engineer with SONY in Tokyo. He really screwed up on the design and development of some peice of equipment and he told me that it cost the company a lot of money and lost time.

Every morning he walked to work he had to cross over a pedestrian bridge over the Yamanote Line that circles Tokyo. He was preparing to throw himself off the bridge and in front of an oncoming train. He decided against it because of his young daughter. He didn't want her to be fatherless.

I've often wondered why people would kill themselves over shit like this but they do.

Over the last few years it seemed popular for young Japanese to meet on the internet, organize a group meet and then do a group suicide. People were findiing car loads of young people who had killed themseleves in these group suicides.

Just below Mount Fuji, there is a wooded area where people commonly go to kill themselves. The police and other emergency services go in once a year to take out all the bodies.

without googling it, I think the Japanese suicide rate is quite high - 30,000 a year?

I wonder how the Taiwanese suicide rate compares per capita?

Taiwan's Other Side said...

Sorry to hear about this. The social lack of discomfort with suicide is really sad and hard to understand.

Maoman said...

You have my deepest sympathy. Suicide is senseless.

You've got to wonder at the depths of despair and misery that makes these young people feel they have no other alternative but to end their lives.


Rosario said...

Suicide is personal, but i think the responsibility is social.
Some times Jung people just look life thru their on blindness, and society should give them new ways of understanding life, is a very shocking and sad news.

Anonymous said...

It's sad, yes, and you knew the student, even sadder for you. But suicide is not just a Taiwan problem, of course. Young people do it all over the world, daily. There is absolutely nothing to be done about it, too. Sure, he could have gotten help, but he didn't. Sure, he could still be alive but he is not. Same with the bright girl mentioned in earlier post. Same with my best friend in college who offed himself over the breakup with his longtime girlfriend. Suicide is not preventable. We want to think so, and there are committees right now studying this, but from what doctors have told me: people who commit suicide do it quickly, without thinking, on compulsion, the pain of their current situation is so deep and hurtful that the quick sudden end of that pain will be a relief to them, and guess what, it was a relief to them! That is what we don't understand. Their pain is so deep and uncontrollable that suicide is seen as a quick helpful wonderful way out. And if you look at it that way, in the way that THEY look at it, then they have chosen something they needed to do. So they didn't live a long life. It was meant to be, their allotted time on Earth. The tragedy is not so much for them, for they are freed now of their emotional pain, but the tragedy is on the survivors, the parents, the friends, the teachers, the grief, the grief.

But we should try to see suicide from the point of view of those who for eons and eons have chosen to do it, and will continue to do it. Until we can wipe out pain from people's lives, what can we do? That young man was probably suffering so badly from some deep unbearable pain, that suicide was a relief to his mind. Grant him that much, at least. And then let's all get back to making the world a better place to live in.

Here in the UK, suicide happens all the time, too. It is not a Taiwaneser disease. It's a form of life disease, like cancer or leukemia.

Still, that said, it must be a shock for one of your students to have killed himself. My condolences to you, sir!

Erica said...

Hi, Michael..
I hate to hear these news too. When I was a junior high school students, my classmate killed himself in Chinese New Year. It was a big shock for me. Therefore, I really do not want to listen these news again in my life. But I think Taiwan's students really have pressure in our life. Perhaps happy and happiness does not exist in this world.

Michael Turton said...

But I think Taiwan's students really have pressure in our life. Perhaps happy and happiness does not exist in this world.

Yes, it does. But happiness is in relationships with people you love, and having physical and material comfort, not in anything that you can obtain in school. You are right -- for Taiwanese, school is painful. I'm glad I didn't have to go to school here.


Bakka said...

The problem is that our capitalist economy does not recognize that there will always be people that are totally superfluous to the economy:

i.e. they will ALWAYS be economically unviable or superfluous (i.e. we have too many peolpe and not enough high paying seats to fill)

Technology always displaces the need for human beings to work. So we have to stop subscribing to backward economic idealogies, kids wouldn't kill themselves if they knew they wouldn't have to live a life of economic insecurity and wondering how they are going to feed, cloth themselves, and pay for rent. It's our backward economic system that causes suicide like this.

If you're a naturalist you already know that FORM determines function, and a natural hierarchy of attributes will mean that people get left out because they are not as good as other people in ability and that means they are on the bottom of the economic pile, oppressed by stagnant wages.

Anonymous said...

That's really sad. I hope you, his family, and any other loved ones will be fine, and not be to overwhelmed.

I also wanted to mention and invite you to check out the free for Christmas ebook at and the free teacher training at !

It all needs some work, but hey - It's free!

Happy Holidays!