A light on the invisible

If you chase down your wife and shoot her to death in the daylight of a strip mall, you’ll get your name and picture in the paper, and nobody will suggest it will lead to more husbands killing their wives. But if you take your own life, alone, outside a school, you’re invisible.

As I’ve written before, kids are killing themselves and many schools are keeping a lid on the information for fear the knowledge will lead other kids to kill themselves. Many newspapers buy into this theory.

Earlier this week, the Pioneer Press made an exception — sort of — when the suicide intruded on a high school football game (“Hastings football team falls, hours after student commits suicide“).

A stadium full of people knew about the death; it’s impossible to keep such a thing a secret in 2012…


In honor of their classmate, the Hastings student section released a large bundle of balloons into the sky before the game. The three Hastings captains did the same on the field.

“What happened is far more important than anything we are doing out here,” Hastings coach Dana Strain said. “We talked about making this a three-hour block where we could get our minds off of it.”

And that was the extent of the suicide angle. No name was mentioned, nor any indication of what would compel a young man to take his life outside his high school.

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His name was Mitchell Lucas, he was 17 years old and today the Hastings Star Gazette, one of the few papers that’s made a deliberate decision not to hide suicide in its community, ran the young man’s obituary.

Mitchell Martin Lucas, age 17, loving son, goofy brother, valued friend, and avid outdoor sporting enthusiast, died tragically on Monday, Oct. 22. His death by suicide breaks our hearts and leaves behind an emptiness of unanswerable questions.

According to Mitchell’s wishes, we want to publicly thank the employers of this good boy who gave him a shot at making it in this world. He was on his way to be a good citizen, albeit in his own way.

Neighbor Buck Carlson for his first job as a farm hand; Welch Ski Village, Ski-Link staff; Mike and Jim Leifeld as a farm hand in exchange for hunting rights; Nick Langley, Mitch Whipple, and Pete Terry at Terry’s Hardware; Sean Lenz and Jim at Road Ready Truck and Trailer Repair who were the only ones who could cheer him up.

Mitchell is a child of God and is now in his Father’s care. The devil is a loser. We are very grateful for the outpouring of love and support from our community, family, friends, neighbors, PINGP co-workers, and especially the members of St. Philips Lutheran Church that will sustain us. Our God is an awesome God. He is our rock and our salvation. Mitchell is resting in peace.

He was preceded in death by his grandfathers, Martin Bisson and Joe Lucas, and his uncle, Gary Groves. Mitchell is survived by his parents, Jeff and Lynn Lucas; sister, Mackinzie Rae; grandmothers, Mary Bisson of Bloomington and Eleanor Lucas of Hastings; godparents, Joe Lucas and Beth Groves; along with many other relatives and friends.

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, at Our Saviour’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 400 W. 9th St., Hastings. Visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, at church, and 1 hour prior to the service on Saturday at church. Pallbearers are Terry Bisson, Craig Bisson, Scott Schlosser, Derek Niebur, Mike Lorentz, and Sean Kieffer. Interment Lakeside Cemetery in Hastings.

The Star Gazette didn’t have a lot of information about the suicide when it printed its edition this week. But it ran a four-line story anyway to say it happened.

“Readers told me we should have considered the family when posting the story. Those callers told me this was a private matter, and that I should have stayed out of it,” editor Chad Richardson told me in an email today. ” I’m hearing from more and more people, though, who support our decision to cover the story. The positive comments now outnumber the negative ones.”

Meanwhile, up in Menagha, Mn., friends of Kyle Kenyon are hoping a petition circulating in town will convince the school district to change its mind and allow a picture of him to appear in the high school yearbook. He took his own life earlier this year.

  • Jeff

    If we never see the symptoms, we’ll never fix the cause. Thanks for shedding light on this huge problem.

  • jane

    This is powerful. Thanks for reprinting it. Rest in peace, Mitchell…. “The devil is a loser.”

  • Alison

    Thanks for sharing this, Bob.

    I agree with Jeff, we need to learn the symptoms. But we also need the courage to act when we see them. It can be a real challenge to talk to someone about suicide, to reach out when they seem too close to the edge. What if our hunch is wrong? What do we say? When do we contact a professional?

    If you know someone who is troubled, gently pull them back to safety. Listen to them and remind them of what they have to live for. Talk to common friends and family members. Join together to compare your assessments of the situation and share the burden of support. Take the risk of suggesting an urgent therapist appointment. If you see someone who seems close to the edge, do these things. It may be a risk to your friendship, but you could save a life. It’s better to have a living ex-friend than a dead one.

    There are a couple of causes of suicide that I know of. Mental illness is one. Another is bullying or demoralizing someone. The instance of demoralization that I’m most familiar with is for being GLB or T. Will those doing the demoralizing ever take responsibility for driving so many GLBT people to suicide with their comments? All of the self-righteous, often religiously justified, messages lead so many GLBT people to believe their lives aren’t worth living. Messages like:

    You are an abomination.

    You will go to hell for that.

    You are no longer welcome in my house.

    You are dead to me.

    I don’t care what they do in their own homes, but I don’t want to see it. (meaning things like hand holding, dancing, or a quick kiss for gay people, being seen anywhere in public for transgender people)

    I support you, but I don’t approve of what you’re doing.

    Your marriage will destroy the sanctity of mine.

    You are unfit to be a parent.

    You are an embarrassment to me and your children.

    I will vomit if I ever see you presenting as your true gender.

    Fag! Sissy! Fairy! Queer!

    These messages weigh heavily on a gay or trans person. They might even be directed at someone else. We all hear these things said to others. They drive many GLBT people into the closet, which is a terrifying and maddening place.

    I have no idea if Mitchell was GLBT. It probably had nothing to do with his tragic death. GLBT issues happen to be what I know, and so I look at it through that lens.

    I know that while GLBT people in Minnesota are hearing many supportive messages these days leading up to the amendment question, they are also hearing many hateful messages. It is scary to think about teenagers who are just figuring out their sexual orientation and gender identities in the current climate. How are their young minds making sense of the messages of hate and disproval? It’s not a stretch for me to believe that what they have heard over the past year has led teens to consider suicide.

    Many people put a lot of trust in what their religious leaders say. How many believe when they are told they are grave sinners? How many are driven to the point of despair, knowing their sexual orientation or gender identity is not a choice but an innate part of their being? There is one question I have the answer to: How many of the self-righteous, outspoken religious leaders in the fight against marriage equality will stand up and take responsibility for their part the next time a GLBT person gives into the despair and takes their own life? I think we all know the answer is zero.