Perfection or Suicide

Perfection or Suicide


Suicide, already a tough topic to discuss, and even harder to mention when one thinks about a youth taking their own life.  Parents are especially affected, and if the warning signs aren’t visible, the effects can be even more devastating to the entire family.  An article in the New York Times reminds us of Madison Holleran, a popular and talented Penn student, who killed herself last year.  The story looks at the life of Kathryn DeWitt, a University of Pennsylvania student, who just like Madison had lots of things going well for her.

She ran track and excelled in high school, both in studies and extra-curricular activities.  Now in college, she joined several clubs, worked, had a challenging class load and tried to maintain a social life.  From the outside, this all looked wonderful and she was seemingly fulfilled according to family and friends.  What those who thought were close to her didn’t know, was the package of razor blades she purchased, and the stack of goodbye letters she prepared to be ready for the likely event.  After Madison Holleran’s suicide, a roommate noticed Kathryn stopped eating, and expressed concern to her.  This initial discussion brought out Ms. DeWitt’s feelings and contemplation of suicide.  Kathryn was hospitalized and underwent counseling.  Thank God she is alive today and willing to share her story, connecting with others who also struggle with perfection and these thoughts.

The reality is, suicide is not the answer for anyone who attempts to achieve and cannot reach unattainable ‘perfection’ or similar notions.  From our Orthodox Christian view, we remember Apostle Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, and maintain the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and used to glorify God.

Ms. DeWitt’s parents expressed their love and support of their daughter, saying, “Her courage and resilience have been a real blessing and example to us.  We want to give Kathryn the opportunity to tell her own story.”

Also noteworthy in the article is the topic of faulty comparisons which students make, and can become dangerous since they carry feelings of shame, according to Dr. Anthony L. Rostain, a pediatric psychiatrist on Penn’s faculty. Dr. Rostain said,

Shame is the sense one has of being defective or, said another way, not good enough.  It isn’t that one isn’t doing well.  It’s that ‘I am no good.’
Instead of thinking, ‘I failed at something,’ these students think, ‘I am a failure.’

A good video regarding shame and vulnerability is found at: TED Video with Brene Brown


To read more, please visit New York Times for the full article

Photo credit: via the New York Times



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About author

Eleni Alexiou

Eleni brings to the Orthodox Christian Network diverse experience as an accomplished director in both nonprofit and for-profit sectors. She holds a BS from Florida State University, a Master’s of Clinical Social Work from Simmons College School, a LCSW-C (License in Clinical Social Work) with years of experience working within the Orthodox community. She is a leader in non-profits and administration with 20 years of supervisory experience, staff development & management, coordinating of volunteers, community outreach, and fundraising. Eleni joined OCN to inspire and spread media ministry in the Orthodoxy.