Is a Suicide Ever Someone Else's Fault? Difficult Questions in the Wake of a Tragedy

Elise Solé

Ashley Anne Riggitano, a pretty 22-year-old fashion intern jumped to her death from the George Washington bridge into the Hudson River on Wednesday afternoon, her 22nd birthday, after participating in a rage-fueled online blowout between five of her friends, one of whom dared her to overdose on her medication, writing on Facebook, "Go try to kill yourself on Xanax again, you untable [sic] loser. Go f*** yourself and never speak to me again."

On the bridge, Riggitano had left her Louis Vuitton bag containing medication such as Adderall and Klonopin with handwritten notes pointing toward the five people who had allegedly tormented her and whom she didn't want at her funeral.

"To any funeral, these people should not be allowed based upon words and actions," Riggitano had written.

In the days leading up to her suicide, Riggitano reportedly engaged with one woman over Facebook, accusing her of bullying. But according to the woman, Riggitano was the instigator.

Are these five women to blame for Riggitano's suicide? Can anyone ever be responsible for someone else taking their own life? The New York Post reported that Riggitano may have had a history of problems and tried to commit suicide at least once before so it's possible that she was depressed and prone to such extreme measures; any incident could have been the impetus. On the other hand, there have been plenty of cases where people have been held responsible for another's person's suicide. In 2010, Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi jumped to his death from George Washington Bridge after a roommate recorded an intimate act between Clementi and another man.

It's also unclear whether Riggitano was the aggressor or the victim, nor do we know whether the exchanges constituted as bullying according to state laws. It goes without saying that cyber bullying is rampant on social media. Without seeing other people's facial cues and body language, it's easier to lash out without inhibition because there are no immediate consequences. And research has proven that people are more likely to turn against others when there is physical distance between them.

However this unfolded, one thing is clear: This case is incredibly sad. No one wants to feel responsible for such a tragedy, regardless of who is to blame. Our hearts go out to the Riggitano family.