MidDay published the news of an attempted suicide in Mumbai with this title:
2-hour suicide drama atop South Mumbai highrise; woman slits wrist, tries to jump off building’s terrace
and I am left wondering what exactly was the expectation here.
The story goes on to describe how a woman got into a high rise building and made her way to the terrace, walking the parapet as she prepared to jump, while people in the building… “They soon discovered that a rank stranger was attempting to take her life in their building.” as if someone known to them had a right to jump off their terrace.
She had slit her wrists and was bleeding and threatening to jump if anyone approached close. The police, firebrigade and neighbouring people were trying to talk her down. Her friend was called to the place.
Alarmed neighbours called the police. Her friend was called and he managed to lunge forward and save her just as she was about to jump.
By any standards, this is a suicide attempt. It is unfortunate that Mid-Day reports this as a “drama” in monumental insensitivity to the distress of the person driven to take such a drastic step. The entire article reports the incident as a problem created by the woman for others. Not unlike Mamata Banerjee terming farmer suicides as a conspiracy against her.
There is no mention as to what the woman said or wanted. There is no mention of how the friend of this “rank stranger” was identified and called to the spot. There is no mention of why she allowed him to approach. There is no mention of what he said. There isn’t even a quote asked from him after such a brave rescue. The story isn’t interested in the woman’s problems or survival at all. The story is one of the unnecessary headache caused to people in this “nail-biting drama that brought life in a whole neighbourhood to a screeching halt”. Not all that different from reporting a traffic jam.
This callousness is hardly new. It is common for people who threaten suicide to be discredited if they didn’t go through with it. The implication is that the person attempting suicide did not intend to go through and was pretending for other purposes – usually to coerce someone into something.
The supposed Men’s Rights Activists often refer to threats of suicide as one of the ways women abuse men.
Is it possible that a person who attempts suicide feels all the hopelessess as one who succeeds in it? Why do we see a successful suicide as a victim, but an unsuccessful one as a pretender? Do we demand death as our price for believing someone?
Why would a suicidal person want to continue in a world that couldn’t care less about them? Where something of the magnitude of making life not worth living is not even worth asking about, but they are expected to overcome their misery to not be an inconvenience to others? Yeah right. Really will make someone want to live.
Is a part of us urging a person to commit suicide with the lure of finally believing them, if they go through on their threat? Are we punishing them for failing to commit suicide by denying their suffering as merely a show?
Is this rather not like reporting a traffic accident resulting in a near death like a deliberate road block? “Vehicles were at a standstill for two kilometers as the accident continued to occupy the street”? This is the height of media catering to “people like us” if an incident with the greatest suffering and threat to one person gets reported as the problem that person created for others.
Whatever it is, I believe media has the power to suggest ways of understanding the world to people, and it holds a responsibility to not promote a manipulative view about victims.