When visitors walk inside the newly opened Smith Suicide Forest, the first thing they’ll notice is the hundreds of trees sprawled across the space, each adorned with a sustainably-sourced hemp noose. What they might not notice, however, is the small sign right next to the entrance, which reads, “THERE IS HOPE. MAKE THE CALL. NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE 1-800-273-8255.” This is because this sign is directly situated behind a larger sign that reads, “KILL YOURSELF.”
Officially opened last semester after a two-year long construction period, the Smith Suicide Forest has thus far been, in the words of the Director of Common Spaces Julie Crites, an “unequivocal success.” “Whereas, previously, students would take their lives in the comfort of their own home during a college-enforced leave of absence,” continues Crites, “the Suicide Forest has transformed an otherwise lonely, isolated experience into one mass, communal activity.” And the statistics speak for themselves. “The undergraduate population has already dropped from 6,700 to just below 5,000, which means that fewer students are attending classes and eating at dining halls. As a result, many of the newly unemployed professors, TFs, and HUDS workers have begun to frequent the Suicide Forest as well.”
Strolling through the Suicide Forest, it’s easy to see why the space is so popular within the Harvard community. Colorful sofas adorn every floor of the forest, where, on any given night, you’re likely to find no fewer than twenty undergrads disemblowing themselves with the complimentary katanas Swissbäkers provides with every purchase of a Jumbo Pretzel. If you venture up to the third floor, you’ll come across a gorgeous roof garden. Embodying the very essence of tranquility and seclusion—which, God knows, are two things Harvard students could use a little more of—the roof garden is hands down the best spot on campus to throw yourself off of and then hurtle into the rush hour traffic below. And for those thrillseekers amongst us who desire an even more intense and visceral way of ending their lives, you’ll be pleased to know that the Suicide Forest has partnered with the MBTA to allow visitors direct access to the Harvard Square T station through a basement tunnel. I know that I’ve said this before in many previous articles, but this time I truly mean it: getting absolutely pancaked by a red-line train has never been easier.
Yet, the existence of the Suicide Forest has not been met without criticism. Most notably, some students feel that the space only demonstrates a surface-level commitment to sustainability. “While I suppose it is somewhat commendable that the carbon monoxide chambers were built without the use of harmful chemicals,” says Chair of the Harvard College Environmental Action Committee Sunny B. Jain, “I nonetheless take serious issue with the fact that the fifty toasters teetering on the edge of the fourth floor swimming pool use up an enormous amount of electricity—which, keep in mind, is not even renewable but coal-powered.”
However, at this stage, the Suicide Forest is still in its infancy, and as it seeks to improve and refine itself over the coming months, it will undoubtedly take such concerns into account. After all, as Crites is quick to remind me, the leaders of Rome didn’t kill themselves in a day.