On suicide and online communities

World of Warcraft and Hearthstone streamer Byron ‘Reckful’ Bernstein died by suicide today. WHO estimates that around 800,000 people die by suicide each year, but hearing about this death just now hit me a little harder. Maybe because I’m feeling down myself lately, or maybe because Reckful was a giant in the videogame community which I consider myself a part of. I only recently watched a video of Reckful talking about depression with psychiatrist Dr. Alok Kanojia.

Looking at his recent tweets, there were warning signs. Hindsight can be strong, but I wonder how many people saw those and really thought about what they might mean, and acted on that? Think about your own sphere. Are there people who you think, just maybe, might be experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts? Don’t ignore it, don’t assume someone else will talk to them, don’t play it off. You can do something.

This is a callout to people in both the gaming and social media community. I *very* often see people in videogames tell other gamers to kill themselves. And for what? Because your team mate played bad and you lost? So what? Maybe it’s a joke, maybe it’s not. This doesn’t matter – what matters is how someone else might perceive and react to that.

I’m not perfect, and I can think of many examples where I’ve done or said something in a videogame or social media that I’m ashamed of. What if I said something to someone who was already feeling vulnerable? I need to do better, and I need to call it out when I see it.

It’s not just videogames. I see people literally wishing death or some other atrocity on others on social media for disagreeing about facts or ethics. The world is complex and we probably all think things that aren’t true. Do you deserve death wished upon you for that?

I see some people in the vegan community wishing death on animal farmers, and I see animal farmers and non-vegans wishing death on vegans. One atrocity doesn’t justify another. Cut that shit out. Don’t celebrate when a hunter is killed by an animal they were hunting. I hate what they do, but we shouldn’t wish death or suffering on anyone.

I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in 2012. I don’t think I’ve been at the point of wanting to kill myself, but I can understand how hopeless things can seem, and how someone can get to that point. While suicide affects everyone around the individual, I don’t think it’s fair to characterise it as just selfish. People who take their lives may feel like a burden to others, or they may realise how it will affect others, but their suffering is just too great, and they want a way out.

That doesn’t mean we should accept it. Mental health is a neglected issue, and we need to be doing more, as a society and as individuals, to alleviate that suffering.

Please look out for each other. We can all do better.

I want to say for anyone who might be worried after reading this, while I feel very sad lately, I’m not feeling suicidal.

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