Suicide is in the Atmosphere
A story from Japan I think is metaphorical to a larger ennui or nihilism in the West. Suicide rates are at very disturbing proportions. From the story:
If the Golden Gate Bridge had been built in Japan, there might be little discussion about erecting a barrier to keep people from jumping off. Since 1998, an average of 30,000 Japanese people have committed suicide annually, according to the National Police Agency. In a nation of 128 million inhabitants, that's 24 per 100,000 people - the highest rate among developed nations. In contrast, the U.S. suicide rate is 11 per 100,000 (Lithuania currently has the world's highest with 38.6 per 100,000 people, according to the World Health Organization)...
"This country has done nothing until recently to prevent suicide," said Yukio Saito, director of the 24-hour suicide hot line Inochi no Denwa, or Phone of Life, which he says receives an estimated 720,000 calls a year at 49 call stations across Japan.
Saito and other critics say the government traditionally treated suicide as a personal problem, one that didn't need state intervention or be discussed publicly. But pressure from suicide prevention groups finally spurred the Japanese parliament known as the Diet to pass prevention legislation in 2006 and issue a white paper outlining the problem in November.
We seem to be moving in the opposite direction here. We worry about suicide rates on one hand, some of us promote suicide facilitation for certain categories of suffering people, on the other--the terminally ill, the "hopelessly ill," even the mentally ill.
In our debate at the Houston Holocaust Museum, Kathryn Tucker insisted that suicide shouldn't be called suicide when people diagnosed as terminally ill kill themselves, but "aid in dying," Why this postmodernist redefinition? The word suicide stigmatizes. (Actually, she is upset because it helps keep people from legalizing assisted suicide, but never mind.) But beyond that, I don't think that is true anymore. And that is dangerous.
It isn't that I want people shunned, I want people motivated to find other solutions to the problems of human suffering than self destruction. If fear of being thought badly of saves a life, what is the problem? And certainly, suicide prevention seems to receive far less emphasis today than it did when I was practicing law in the 1980s and suicide prevention hotlines were advertised on billboards and were reported about ubiquitously in the media. About a year ago, I had a suicide threat e-mailed to me and I couldn't even find a suicide prevention center in my correspondent's county in Texas!
Saying that some suicides are okay but others are not sends a terribly mixed message that ends up promoting suicide as legitimate. It is akin to telling people not to smoke but if you do, use filter cigarettes. That isn't going to prevent anyone from lighting up. Indeed, it seems to me that we are far more unequivocal about the non smoking message than we are about preventing suicide.
Labels: The Problem of Suicide