There were a couple of electrifying moments at the generally snoozy Academy Awards ceremony last night, and one of them was when screenwriter Graham Moore, who won for The Imitation Game, used his Oscar moment to acknowledge that he tried to kill himself when he was 16. He did it, he said, “because I felt weird and I felt different, and I felt like did not belong. And now I’m standing here, and so I would like this moment to be for that kid who’s out there who feels weird or feels different or feels she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Yes you do. I promise you do.”
Moore’s excellent shout-out to teenagers who have suicidal thoughts deserved the standing ovation it got. And it was especially welcome because just two days ago another teenager who was creative and clever and different also tried to kill himself—but Draven Rodriguez, unfortunately, succeeded.
Rodriguez was a smart, funny 17-year-old from Schenectady, New York, who had become something of an Internet sensation when he submitted a kitchy image of himself and his cat, against a background of colored lasers, for his high school yearbook picture. The picture was rejected—rules must be followed!—but his principal posed with Draven, his cat, and her Chihuahua for a separate page with a message about the importance of adopting pets from rescue organizations. And the original picture went viral.
Draven’s parents haven’t shared any more information about what might have been behind his suicide, but they noted his independent streak. At 9, he was allowed to have his hair dyed green, as long as he brought home good grades. His interests included guitar, computers, gaming, running, rowing, and grammar—including correcting his teachers, the Times-Union reports. We don’t know if he struggled with depression or anxiety, but he was certainly different.
Moore, a successful novelist as well as a sought-after screenwriter, acknowledged to Dateline Hollywood backstage at the Oscars that he had been depressed as a teenager, and has continued to struggle with depression since then.
We couldn’t admire more his decision to use his Oscar win to extend a hand to other struggling teenagers. He said backstage that it had been hard, but he thought, “I’m a writer, when am I ever going to be on television? I might as well use it to say something useful.”
Teenage suicides are so often an utter surprise to the people who love them that helping kids who are struggling to be more open about their pain can be a life-saver.