Sunday, 2 October 2016

On Tommy Wallach Joking About Suicide

CW: Depression and suicide.

This post was originally published on my book blog, Once Upon a Bookcase.

Tommy Wallach has done it again, and offended most, if not all, of the YA community. I've discussed previously how incensed he made me when, after the Paris bombings last year, he said how the world would be a better place if more people were atheists. He grouped all people of faith, of any religion, in with extremists, with terrorists, and offended countless people. I decided then that I simply couldn't support him as an author and wouldn't be reading any of his future books. I was done. Despite being done, however, I feel it's important to speak out against reprehensible behaviour, and Wallach has again caused uproar.

Two days ago, Wallach tweeted the paperback cover for one of his books, and in this tweet, he made a joke about suicide. And, it's been found, two years previously, he wrote a blog post where he rated literary suicides - two of which weren't literary; one was about characters he wished had committed, and the other was about a real person who died by suicide - in order of how emo they were. You can catch up on all the details of the tweet and his post on YA Books Central, where V.E. Schwab wrote about Wallach's latest offensive comments in We Need to Talk About Tommy.

I have been passionate about how people treat and react to mental illness for a long time. Long before I had was diagnosed with a mental illness myself. Years before I discovered YA novels that dealt with mental illness. For not far off twenty years, I have lived alongside someone, and later, several people, with depression. I have seen their daily struggles. I have watched them find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. I have witnessed their fight to get through another day. I have seen how hard it was for them to find joy in anything. I have seen them simply existing, from day to day. And they have discussed with me the thoughts that have crossed their minds when they have been at their lowest, darkest moments.

Depression and suicide is not a damn joke. It disgusts me beyond words that Wallach would belittle the acute suffering of those with depression, would disregard the sheer strength it takes to carry on living when living is so difficult, and make a joke about something people fight against daily. How dare he?! How is he even capable of finding amusement in something like this?! I am livid, and I am so bloody upset.

Simply making those comments is bad enough, but put in the context of Wallach's job, and his words and actions go far beyond inexcusable and unforgivable. Wallach is an author of YA novels, meaning teenagers read his books. Most of Tommy's online YA fanbase is likely to consist of teenagers. Those teenagers are likely to read his tweets, his blog posts. Depression is the top cause of illness and disability in adolescents world wide, and suicide is the third cause of death. Some of those teenagers in Wallach's online YA fanbase might be among those who are suffering daily with depression and suicidal thoughts. And he just made a big joke about what they're experiencing.

When thinking about teens who are struggling with depression reading Wallach laugh about their struggles... there are just no words. YA author Shaun David Hutchinson found the words, and lays out the potential harm of Wallach's actions brilliantly in Suicide Is Not a Joke. I am so angry. I am so god damn angry. And I am devastated for those those teens, or anyone suffering, who read Wallach's words. I can't even imagine what that must feel like.

How dare he laugh at them?! How dare he?!

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