Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Suicide epidemic exacerbated by cultural loneliness.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition



The suicide epidemic is once again in the news possibly due to the celebrity suicide deaths of Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, and others. There have been many articles published on what may be causing the significant increase in suicide deaths.

The latest research from the Center for Disease Control indicates that between 1999 and 2016, the suicide rate in America increased in every state (except Nevada). Suicide deaths have increased by a staggering 30% in America where in 2016 alone, 45,000 people died by suicide.

After reading many articles and studies on the scourge of suicide, I am further convinced that the causes of suicide are the same or similar reasons why people ask for assisted suicide. Based on their feelings of hopelessness and despair, they feel like they have no other choice.

An article by Ross Douthat in the New York Times Sunday Review (May 18, 2013) concerning loneliness and suicide states:
Right now, the pessimistic scenario seems more plausible. In an essay for The New Republic about the consequences of loneliness for public health, Judith Shulevitz reports that one in three Americans over 45 identifies as chronically lonely, up from just one in five a decade ago. “With baby boomers reaching retirement age at a rate of 10,000 a day,” she notes, “the number of lonely Americans will surely spike.”
The same concerns were expressed by Ben Domenech in an article published in the Federalist (June 11) in commenting about the tragic death of Anthony Bourdain. Domenech states:
The answer is almost assuredly loneliness and depression – both of which Bourdain has talked about in multiple interviews over the years, and since his divorce. Listening to his conversations over the weekend with Marc Maron and David Remnick, it’s barely under the surface of his conversations – and if you’re familiar with his shows, they seem less like advocacy for an approach to life, and more like arguments with himself about the inherent goodness and beauty we can find in the world. 
The disturbing truth we have to recognize is that Bourdain is not alone in his loneliness and depression. We are experiencing an incredible increase in suicide levels according to the latest research from the CDC. From 1999 to 2016, suicide increased in every U.S. state but one (and that one is Nevada, which remains in the top ten states for suicides). It is one of the top ten causes of death and one of only three such causes on the rise. The rise is seen in every age group and across all demographics, but particularly among people who look like Bourdain: 84 percent of suicide victims are white, and roughly 77 percent are men. 
Last month, a CIGNA survey found that loneliness is epidemic, and that the youngest Americans proclaim the highest levels. “One in four Americans (27 percent) rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them. Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful (43 percent) and that they are isolated from others (43 percent). One in five people report they rarely or never feel close to people (20 percent) or feel like there are people they can talk to (18 percent).
The "experts" claim that suicide has nothing to do with assisted suicide. The American Association of Suicidology accepted the false position of long-time assisted suicide activist Margaret Battin who wrote that suicide and assisted suicide are different acts done for different reasons. Battin is known for producing ideological studies that are not factually based. The assisted suicide lobby knows that assisted suicide becomes socially accepted when it is differentiated from suicide.

With 20 years of experience with the issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide I contend that the reasons people die by suicide are the same or similar reasons why people ask for assisted suicide, even when the circumstances differ.

Most people who ask for assisted suicide feel that their life lacks purpose, meaning or hope, they feel that no one cares about them or that they are a burden on others. Physical suffering rarely causes someone to seek a hastened death but loneliness, depression or feelings of hopelessness are primary reasons.

There aren't easy answers, but I contend that a culture can reduce the scourge of suicide and the cultural abandonment associated with assisted suicide, by caring for and being with others at their time of need. It is essential that people who feel that their life lacks value or purpose, or feels that no one cares, is offered purpose, support and genuine hope from their significant community.

The answer is not only talking about it (suicide), the answer is inclusion, caring and being with others as they journey through the difficult times of their lives.

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