Missing Teen's Body Found & All Anyone Can Talk About Is the Book He Read

Heartbreaking 57

Johnathan CroomThere is sad news out of Oregon this week. Johnathan Croom, the Arizona teenager reported missing by his family, has been found dead, just 1,000 feet from where his car was discovered, abandoned last week in the woods of Southern Oregon. He should be in college now, but instead he's dead. And all anyone wants to talk about is the 18-year-old's alleged obsession with Christopher McCandless, a young man whose journey to Alaska -- and death -- were documented in the book Into the Wild.

Croom's death is being investigated by Oregon police as a possible suicide, which makes the focus on the book especially frustrating. So what if he read a book about a guy who went off into the wilderness, eschewing society and dying because of it? Is this where we should be focusing? The books he read before his death?

Quick answer: no.

Books don't cause suicide. Movies (there's also a film version of Into the Wild) do not cause suicide.

Suicide is not a "normal" response to stressors, be it media or something that happens in the home. To indicate such, as is being done in every single report I've read today on Johnathan Croom, is overly simplistic and irresponsible. 

The result is an unfortunate mix of trumped up fear -- quick, if your loved one is reading Into the Wild, get them some help! -- and misplaced focus.

Here's the truth about suicide. In America, it is the seventh leading cause of death for males and the fifteenth leading cause of death for females. Suicide risk comes -- according to the scientists -- from changes in certain brain chemicals. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have depression and other mental disorders, or a substance-abuse disorder (often in combination with other mental disorders).

Got that? Not books. Not movies.

Suicide is a problem with a person.

If Johnathan Croom's death in the wilderness of Oregon is indeed suicide, it speaks to his own mindset and his own problems. It speaks to tragedy and to a life destroyed before it had even really begun.

This death is tragic, no doubt about it. It's something folks in America should be talking about -- if only because talking about suicide is one way to spread awareness of the options (such as the suicide hotline) out there for helping people who are at risk.

But in order to do that, we need to stop grasping at straws to find "reasons" for suicide and get down to the nitty gritty. Suicide is never, ever the answer, and it is never, ever the "normal" response.

If the words someone is using indicate they may be considering suicide, or if you yourself have wrestled with the idea, please reach out to a suicide hotline. There is ALWAYS someone there who wants to listen and who will take you seriously. You can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.


Image via police



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Leni Siddiqi

Thank you for pointing out what should be obvious. I thought that this was a hoax at first because of all the coverage on the book.
Suicide is a very personal decision and if we are lucky there are warning signs. There are so many sites to check on so here is just one:


I think everyone's looking for answers at this point ,that's law enforcements job.I think you are being way too hard on people who have to look at everything in order to make a full investigation, including what someone was reading.

Tammy McCafferty

To blame a book is utterly ridiculous. You can't blame a book for one teen's death unless it affects thousands of teens. The book has been out in print for over fifteen years. It isn't logical to blame any kind of media, whether it be a book, movie, or music for the death of a child. There is no "blame" here unless you blame him for actually committing suicide, his family for not noticing it, or the people who caused him to feel that suicide was his only option. You DO NOT blame a book!

Tyrone Bush

I agree PRIMA487. Why is it such a far-fetched idea that the book may have influenced him to commit suicide? If he was obsessed with it and the main character in that book it may very well have at least contributed to his death. That's not to say the book itself is evil or bad, but it's been shown that things like a song or video game have influenced people to kill themselves and/or others, so why not a book? But at this point they don't know for sure if it was suicide, murder, or an accident, so to call it a suicide is premature.

Dkaria Moo

How about lay the blame with the one that committed suicide? Despite what the masses want to believe, as individuals, we have sole responsibility on how we view and deal with out surroundings. Not a single living organism on the face of this planet outside of myself can force me to commit suicide.

Kitty Kelleher

What a bunch of nonsense about the book. What do you want to bet he was on some type of medication, for depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD, etc. most can cause suicidal tendencies, great for people who are already depressed and unhappy.

Kyley Braden Thomas

Our we really blaming it on a book?  Let's blame everything on someone or something else.

Jessica Smith

I agree & disagree all at the same time. He was upset over a recent relationship problem. Reporting on that has been spotty. He was by most reports obsessed with that book. The book did not make him kill himself. It may however have had some influence on how he did things. Had he not been  so obsessed with the book he may have sought some help for the depression instead of running into the wilderness like that when he was not prepared to survive. He is supposed to have said he wanted an adventure not that he wanted to die. So that leaves some questions to be answered. I'm not even sure it is a true suicide at this point

nonmember avatar amgkf

As a person who has been suicidal multiple times in her life, a book or movie has nothing to do with it. Sometimes there is nothing to blame, but the general population will not accept that fact. If you have never felt it, you cannot understand, simple as that.

Your brain can do funny things to you.

Deborah J. Lazarus

Not all those who choose suicide are diagnoised with mental health conditions. Sometimes it can be a case of temporary depression caused by any number of things or many things combined. There are many cases of the elderly choosing suicide over being a "burden" to their loved ones. And for the record statistically those who have survived the death of a loved one by suicide are at higher risk of suicide. Can a book, game or movie in and of itself cause suicide...probably not. But depending on the state of mind of the individual any of these could make suicide appear to be an option where realistically it shouldn't ever be. To those who are of the mindset that parents should be blamed for not noticing I hope you never have to live through the experience of either losing a loved one through suicide or helping someone who has. Suicide is on the rise, in our children, our veterns and our elderly. Instead of playing the blame game lets work to raise awareness of this epidemic. There are many resources available to anyone interested in helping in the prevention and awareness of suicide. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention would be a good place to start.

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