Adam grew up in a small town in Southern Ontario. Shy and quiet himself, he always looked up to his closest friend Elliot, the confident and assured captain of the hockey team. Elliot came from a prominent family in the area. His dad was the boss at the mine which provided the majority of the jobs in the industry. His mother did charity work and hosted regular parties at their palatial mansion.
One day Elliot’s sister came home to find his lifeless body hanging from a tree in the backyard. Adam spoke about how confused Elliot’s family and friends were over his suicide. They knew that Elliot drank some at parties and maybe experimented with drugs but he seemed like such a happy 18 year old kid. His obituary summed up everyone’s confusion: “He had everything going for him.”
Adam told me, “I somehow always knew he was gay. He never came out and said it but, through our conversations I always just knew. He must have been so depressed, thinking that he faced the impossible choice of either never being yourself or being a terrible disappointment to your family and all your followers. Maybe he thought that he would rather die than shatter this big, strong masculine identity that he had made for himself.”
Sometimes the family and friends of a man who died by suicide were unsurprised by the death. Maybe the man had been struggling with depression or other mental health issues over which they just couldn’t gain control. Other times, like with Adam’s story of Elliot, the suicide seemed to come out of nowhere, even for those who thought they knew the man. After a suicide, survivors are left to cast around for answers, make guesses as to the pain he was feeling, and wonder why he didn’t reach out for help.
The newly-launched Still Here project looks to start much-needed conversations on depression and suicide in LGBTQ communities. Visit the site here.