Listeners Identify With Host's Family Suicide Tragedy

Tell Me More guest host Tony Cox and Lee Hill, the program's "digital media guy," comb through listener feedback and offer important news updates to recent conversations heard on the program. Hundreds of listeners reached out to the program this week following host Michel Martin's commentary on her brother's recent suicide. Hear Tell Me More listener Erica Soelling reflect on the loss of her boyfriend, who recently took his own life. She explains why — and how — she's determined to keep his memory alive.

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TONY COX, host:

And now it's time for backtalk, where the good folks here at TELL ME MORE lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blog universe - and get to hear from you, our listeners.

Lee Hill, our digital media guy is here. Lee, what's up?

LEE HILL: Hey, Tony. The other day a group of us were up in New York to support our host, Michel Martin, as her family memorialized her only brother, Norman McQueen Jr. Now, as folks know, she's been away for a couple of weeks dealing with Norman's death. Norman, or Wade, or Mac as he was sometimes called, took his own life recently.

Michel briefly dropped by the studio to deliver this gripping commentary about her brother's life and death.

MICHEL MARTIN: Now, I know some people think taking your own life is a selfish act, but I cannot bring myself to see it that way. I see it as selfless, in the sense that you come to believe your self has no value, that everybody would be better off without you. I think my brother thought he was failure. That with his long bout of unemployment he could not live up to what was expected of him as a man and that we'd all be better off without him. He was so wrong.

HILL: And Tony, after that commentary, we were flooded with comments. Hundreds of people wrote on our Web site and emailed us directly to express their condolences and support for Michel. But, Tony, many people also to wrote to tell us how they too have been affected by the suicide of a loved one. For instance, here's what we heard from listener Erica.

ERICA: I lost my boyfriend, Jeff, to suicide on February 13th, 2010 and I have a tremendous understanding for how painful this is. I too believe that suicide is not a selfish act. My boyfriend, like your brother, was a beautiful, caring and unbelievably loving soul - the very antithesis of selfishness. Your story inspired me to share more about Jeff to others. I am so sorry for your loss.

COX: Thanks a lot for that, Erica. And we also received this note from blogger CM. He writes: I've about given up looking for employment, I'm facing losing everything I've worked for and I'm on the last tank of gas I can afford. I'm just about in the same position Norman was in complete despair. I seem to keep thinking, what would be life be like without me around? The commentary, he says, made me think of things I hadn't thought of and just maybe saved me from doing something I and I know my loved ones would regret.

HILL: Well, thanks, CM, and all the best to you. And, Tony, I caught up with Dr. Carl Bell, as we sometimes do, for advice on tough matters like this. He's a professor of public health and psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago. And Dr. Bell offered this advice for our listeners.

Dr. CARL BELL (Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago): There are four things psychiatrists usually recommend to people before life takes a downward turn. Prepare for stress. That people, when they're in that distressful, horrible situation, they take a little break from that stress - 'cause it's hard to make decisions when you're upset. And then once you've taken that break, you've got two choices, you can either change the inside, that is, change how you feel about what's happening to you, or you can change the outside by doing something active and constructive.

If you're the surviving relative of somebody that's committed suicide, you can't change that. And when you've kind of recovered from the grief that you're going to experience, you can take that horrible circumstance and use it as motivation, maybe to get involved with some suicide prevention activities. But the anecdote for learned helplessness is learned helpfulness.

COX: Thanks, Dr. Bell. And thank you, Lee.

HILL: Thank you, Tony.

COX: And we should mention to listeners, that if you do find yourself in distress and need someone to talk to, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-23-TALK. Again, 1-800-237-8255.

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