You can tell people who’ve been around suicide before from those who haven’t.
Here’s some, well, not explanation, but context. Depression• is a top-five killer of pretty much every demographic from tweens to the very elderly. It’s especially common among people who are marginalized and lack social support, for example LGBT youth. After car accidents, it’s the leading killer of young men – above murder, above falls taken after saying “hold my beer a minute”, above testicular cancer, above congenital heart defects that no one knew about and he just keeled over, above accidentaly taking pills from the wrong bottle, above fire, above electrocution, above anything else people are scared of.
Aaron Swartz is gone now, and nothing we do can find him. One of the barbs of a suicide is that it takes away the one person we most want to explain it. We can only make guesses how to catch the next one like him.
Here’s a guess: don’t romanticize suicide.
Here’s a guess: don’t talk as if it comes from a person’s true self, because (1) it’s factually incorrect and (2) it teaches that it can’t be treated without losing identity.
Here’s a guess: don’t talk as if you know exactly what was in the mind of a victim. At least put disclaimers on your speculations about influences.
Here’s a guess: don’t suppose that because someone is very smart, they can think their way out of depression, or that because they are very kind, they can be kind enough to themselves.
Here’s a guess: don’t use suicide as a punchline, and put trigger warnings on things that might be unusually dangerous for a person dealing with it.
Here’s a guess: watch out for your friends and yourself.