Death and Denial
Updated: Nov 5, 2019
Today I am working as a casual teacher and caring for a lovely class at one of my favourite schools. As I take the roll in the morning, I see the word “deceased” typed in beside a boy’s name on the computer. I look around the room, knowing the tragic effect it will have on the class. I immediately think of the parents of the 12-year-old boy. Heartbreaking. I later find out it’s a suicide. Devastating. Sadly, this isn’t the first time I’ve come across a young boy who has taken his life.
Exactly one year ago, I arrived at school ready to begin a new term in my best navy and white pleated skirt, silk top, matching ballet flats and soy late in hand. I was excited to see my sweet, little Kindy students again, anticipating their usual zest for learning.
However, a dark shadow was looming over the playground. As I drove up towards the school entrance, I was shocked to see that the whole school had been covered in tape. Police cars, ambulances and even helicopters were surrounding the primary school. Confusion quickly changed to curiosity and moved rapidly to panic within me. I felt a little sense of comfort when I saw my friend and colleague standing on the street near the entrance of the gate. I pulled my car up beside him.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
He leaned in towards my open window and said in a quiet voice,
“A young boy has taken his life on the children’s playground outside your classroom.”
As he spoke to me, it seemed as though his words were exiting his mouth in slow motion. It felt like a heavy rock had dropped to the bottom of my stomach. When I approached my classroom, I didn’t want to look out the window, but my eyes were drawn to the horrific scene, like the pull of a magnet. ‘Death’ stared right back at me.
I continued my week teaching my class, but I was very distracted. Even though the boy’s body had been removed, ‘death’ remained present in the school, like a dark monster lurking in the shadows. I felt uneasy on playground duty and I couldn’t bear to look in the direction of “the spot” where I saw the lifeless figure. I wanted to block off the area so the children couldn’t play there, to show respect. But the school seemed to want to move on quickly and we were told to continue teaching as normal.
I felt a deep sadness, which I cannot explain. I must admit, I too, was in denial. I decided the only way to deal with it was to avoid talking to anyone or even write about it. If I ignored my feelings, everything would be fine again. However, that was easier said than done as I would lie awake reliving the day in my mind for many nights. My brain refused to deny the tragic reality and the life-long effects it would have had on the deceased boy’s family.
And now, a year later, this dark monster has revisited my current school and just like the time before, ‘denial’ is being used to deal with it. So many people are bottling up their emotions because it is just too hard to discuss. I understand that it is the worst event to happen to a close-knit community, but people do need to talk. They need to discuss their feelings about the incident and talk to their teenage boys about emotions.
Instead of putting the blinkers on, this time I decide to do some research. I sadly discover that male suicide rates in Australia alone, account for 78% of those who take their own life. (https://mensrights.com.au/uncategorized/statistics-on-suicide-in-australia). I also read that male suicide rates have doubled nation-wide in a decade. These horrific incidents should be talked about. Just by simply having a candid conversation about it, could make the difference in saving a life.
If we continue to ‘deny’ and not talk to our boys, then tragically it will be ‘death’ that will have the final say.