To the General Public

Subject: To the General Public
From: Chaslyn Shiels
Date: 22 Feb 2017

I chose to read Hamlet by William Shakespeare for my British Literature class. At the beginning of reading this book, I was completely unsure of what I would be reading. I had only ever heard the title, but never the depth and meaning of the play. This particular play tells about a young man who struggles with grief and pain, eventually leading to a struggle with suicide. Honestly, I was a little surprised. Then I began to think. It made me consider the lives surrounding mine and how much the threat of suicide encases everyday life.
Hamlet contemplates the significance of life for the duration of the play. At the beginning, young Hamlet grieves. He lost his father to death. So the fact that Hamlet is struggling with the thought of suicide in Act 1 (Scene 2) is understandable. That does not make it okay, but it is understandable.
As I read on, I had hoped that Hamlet would recover from his grief. That wasn’t the case. Hamlet has a monologue in Act 3 (Scene 1) where he talks about the lack of courage being the only thing keeping people from committing suicide. “To be, or not to be?” he says. This is where I began to see that the root of suicide was deep into Hamlet’s life. To make matters worse, suicide was not something that Hamlet alone was dealing with.
Another character in Hamlet, Horatio, also shows signs of suicide. At the end of the play, Horatio even tries to attempt it by trying to drink from a cup laced with poison. Suicide is not the problem of one singular individual. It affects the lives of those around.
You probably are asking how I can know about this? Well, let me tell you. When I was a kid, I struggled with being bullied. As most kids at that age did, I hated myself. Never did I attempt suicide, but it was definitely not far from my mind. I had many who influenced me, giving me hope to push away the thoughts. However, it took years to cope.
Each year, 44,193 Americans die by suicide in the United States alone. In 2015, the highest suicide rate (19.6) was among adults between 45 and 64 years of age, the second highest rate (19.4) occurring in those 85 years or older, and the lowest rate seen in adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24 with a suicide rate of 12.5.
We even witness suicide in the lives of our big named movies stars and celebrities battle suicide, whether in thought or in attempts. Robin Williams. Jovan Belcher. Marilyn Monroe. Vincent Van Gogh. Whitney Houston. Amy Winehouse. All of these big time celebrities lost the war against suicide. The public then loses their favorite stars.
Being the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, suicide is huge in our world and can affect thousands of lives as a result of ripple effect. I personally have witnessed many people torn due to a loss of someone who battled with suicide. Suicide is not a joke. It is serious and can destroy whole communities.
To all the people out there who think nothing of this problem, I am almost confident that at least one person who you know or have come into contact with has been affected by suicide. Even if it is simply in their thoughts. This is not to scare you about the risk of someone you love. People are not fully aware of the severity of suicide. It’s blown off by those who think the people they know are not capable of such things. But this is a threat and war that can attack and control anyone in its path.
Hamlet provides a real glance at an issue many people face. A more secretive issue as well. Being on the lookout for things that just don’t seem right in someone we know would give a hand at preventing a scarring situation.