November of the Soul

As a term project for “The Psychology of Death,” a course taught by Edwin Shneidman at Harvard, one student placed an ad in the personals section of a local alternative newspaper: “M 21 student gives self 3 weeks before popping pills for suicide. If you know any good reasons why I shouldn’t, please write Box D-673.” Within a month he had received 169 letters. While the majority were from the Boston area, others came from as far away as New York, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and even Rio de Janeiro. They offered many reasons why he should stay alive. Some wrote of music, smiles, movies, sunny days, sandy beaches. Some quoted Rod McKuen, e. e. cummings, or Dylan Thomas. They suggested he spend time with others less fortunate than he; implored him to think of those he would leave behind; called him a coward and dared him to struggle and survive. Some referred him to a therapist. Others offered friendship, enclosing their phone number or their address. A few enclosed gifts: two joints of marijuana; an advanced calculus equation; a Linus doll; magazine clippings on the subject of kindness; a photo of apple blossoms with the message “We’re celebrating Apple Blossom Time.” Some simply broke down in the middle of their letters and pleaded “Don’t” or “You just can’t.”

– George Howe Colt, November of the Soul: The Enigma of Suicide p. 350


About Bryan Cebulski

Writer. Cis queer. History, masculinity, media. Point-and-click adventure protagonist. He/Him/His. Collects bad habits like Jessica Rabbit.
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