Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Holiday Sorrow: A 12 year old Muscular Dystrophy & Bullying Victim

While this story is two months old (yes, I need to watch the news more!), it caught my attention as I was editing a paper on psychological care for a client (a nurse); twelve year old Mitchell Wilson committed suicide after being tormented at his Pickering, British Columbia school for his disability, muscular dystrophy, this past September.

When I read the story, tears came to my eyes, as illnesses from two charities I support with all my heart seemed to combine into a horrible disaster.  One was Muscular Dystrophy which I contribute to monthly in support of Stephanie Wertz, who we lost in March to a disease that she took on as if it were simply a part of life; we never would have thought of her as sick, or becoming worse in her illness, as she was just like one of us. The other, Suicide --- a disease that I have always felt suffers from unawareness and a lack of communication; The Support Network in Edmonton provides help for families, individuals and teenagers that suffer from a lack of a support system. As I attended their Donor Appreciation Party in October, I learned that the highest risk group for suicide in Canada is not teens or kids bullied by their peers, but 42 year old men who feel they cannot share their grief. 

Anton Chekhov 1860-1903
In fact, this reminds me of a piece of literature I recently helped a student study in a basic English 103 course. Anton Chekhov's  "Misery", also titled "Heartache" tells the story of Iona, a Russian lower-class cab (horse & cart) driver in bourgeoisie times who has just lost his son and is alone in the world. To whom shall I tell my sorrow? Chekhov begins, and tells the story of the higher class passengers who treat Iona as an animal, calling him names and disregarding his grief. In the end, it is only an animal, his horse, that will listen intently to his sorrow. (Photo from Brandeis University)

Mitchell Wilson's father is quoted as saying that it was a combination of the bullying,mugging during his mandatory daily walks, muscular dystrophy and his mother's death to cancer a few years before, that contributed to his son's suicide (The Toronto Star). Reading the story brought tears to my eyes and made me feel ever grateful to have friends and family to share the holiday season, and to share my grief in having a Christmas without Stephanie. Still, I'm excited to enjoy a holiday at home at a time when workaholics can breathe,friends can drink wine, people read books, shop, and relax.

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