The Michelle Carter Trial: Why the Conversation Surrounding Mental Health Needs to Drastically Improve

*WARNING: the content of this article contains details of a suicide case and potentially triggering material*

Three years ago, an 18-year-old boy got into his truck, drove to a Kmart store, and left the doors closed as carbon monoxide entered the vehicle. His goal was death. His girlfriend helped him plan it, and continuously encouraged him to go through with it.

In July 2014, Conrad Roy III died alone in his truck from carbon monoxide poisoning. His last conversation was with his girlfriend, Michelle Carter, during which she encouraged him to stay in the car that was killing him.

On June 5, 2017, a trial began against 20-year old Michelle Carter, aiming to charge her for involuntary manslaughter of her boyfriend Conrad Roy III. The evidence? Text messages.

Three years ago, 17-year-old Carter and 18-year-old Roy had numerous conversations about his plans for suicide. Roy had been experiencing depression and suicidal ideation, and had confided in Carter. In the texts, she seemed to be offering him advice that she thought was helpful. But her callous tone toward such horrific ideas is extremely unsettling. Carter continued to reassure Roy's disordered thinking and reassured him that taking his life was not only the best possible solution, but an acceptable one.

In Massachusetts, assisted suicide is not a crime, which on the most basic level I do not understand. I do not understand how this is even up for discretion. Death is not exactly subjective. Persuading someone to kill themselves is unexcusable. I don't care what state you live in, I don't care if the laws are different. They shouldn't be. And I don't understand how there is a debate when there is this kind of evidence.

Carter's prosecutors say that she wanted "attention" as the "grieving girlfriend."

In Carter's defense, her attorneys have said that she has her own mental health issues, and that she is on medication that may have impaired her judgment.

Can she be found guilty? I don't know. I am not a lawyer. I don't know her. I only know that from the outside, this situation and this case look very, very bad.

But this article is not about my opinion on whether or not Michelle Carter is guilty. This is an article to bring attention to the conversations we have about mental health.

It is clear that Carter has her own struggles. No sane or stable person acts in this way. What she did is evil and selfish, and not in any way whatsoever how anyone should handle something so serious as suicide.

This is the heart of the problem. This is exactly what is to blame. Mental health is getting a more open conversation, but it is still not taken seriosly enough. Can Carter legally be held accountable? I don't know. But this case should hold all of us accountable to make a change in the way we educate ourselves and others about mental health.

As someone who has been on both sides of the issue, both as the person trying to help and the person seeking help, I know that these conversations are not easy. Obviously. There is so much fear and so much that can cloud anything that is said. The fear that parents won't understand. The fear of being hospitalized. The fear that, if you try to get someone help, they will never forgive you. The fear that people will blame you for "only wanting attention." The fear that you could say the wrong thing at any moment, and that that could be the thing that makes someone choose to end their life.

There is so much fear. I know. And that is why I will not stop talking about it until it is taken seriously and until it is dealt with in a way that is actually helpful. Because what if someone is acting this way because they want attention? Does no one recognize that that in and of itself is its own problem? How neglected does someone have to be that the only way they feel heard is by saying they will kill themselves? How big of a warning sign do we need?

The point is that mental disorders are due to a physiological imbalance. They need to be treated just as we would treat a broken leg or the flu. The problem with treatments for mental disorders is that they are so extremely stigmatized that people are ashamed to seek them. And it's harder to physically see a mental disorder. So what happens? People hide. If you had a broken bone or were vomiting, would you be ashamed to seek help? Would you be able to hide it? Would you want to?

I want to express my deepest empathies to Conrad and his family, but also to Michelle. She needs help as much as Conrad did, because no stable person urges someone to kill themselves like it's nothing. No matter what the outcome of her trial, it needs to include help for her. It needs to include action, not just a prison sentence.

Let this case be a call to action. Let it fuel the fight to break the stigma surrounding mental health. Let this pain and this evil and this suffering mean something. Be mad. Feel upset. You should. But DO something about it.

This is only a start to the conversation. Don't let it end here.

For more information:

https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2017-06-06/michelle-carter-wanted-attention-prosecutors-say-in-opening-remarks-of-texting-suicide-trial

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/06/us/texting-suicide-massachusetts-trial/

http://www.mamamia.com.au/michelle-carter-mental-health/

If you or someone you know needs help:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number
  • 1-800-273-8255
A list of other help lines can be found here.