If you are having thoughts of suicide, please know that you are not alone. If you are in danger of acting on suicidal thoughts, call 911. For support and resources, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text 741-741 for the Crisis Text Line.
Conrad Roy died by suicide in Massachusetts in 2014, after repeated attempts the 18-year-old had made to take his own life. Roy, who had filmed video diaries documenting his social anxiety and depression, had struggled with his mental health after his parents’ divorce. He’d also endured physical punishment from his father so severe that on one occasion a police report was filed. At the time of his death, Roy was reportedly taking an antidepressant known to increase the risk of suicidal ideation in teenagers. In other words, multiple factors could have contributed to Roy’s tragic death. The narrative surrounding it, though, focused almost exclusively on one lurid and appalling element: Roy’s girlfriend, Michelle Carter, had encouraged him to end his life, badgering him with messages in his final days that seemed hectoring, even coercive.
Carter’s perceived culpability in Roy’s death led to her arrest for involuntary manslaughter, and to a charged debate over whether speech could equal violence under the law. She also sparked a rash of news stories focusing on the most sensational aspects of the case, mining the thousands of text messages Carter and Roy exchanged over two years for the most egregious examples of her endorsement of his plan to kill himself. She suggested methods. (“Drink bleach.” “Hang yourself jump off a building stab yourself idk theres lots of ways.”) She encouraged him not to keep putting things off. (“You can’t think about it. You just have to do it.”) She even seemed to position herself as someone who could benefit from the attention that would be given to Roy’s death. (“If you’re gonna do a last tweet can it be about me.”)