The suicide rate is up. There has been a 25% increase in suicide since 1999. Among those aged 15 to 24, suicide is the second leading cause of death. High profile celebrity suicides have sparked a number of think pieces on the problem.
All this talk is well and good, but we’re having another simultaneous conversation. The “right to die” and an option for physician assisted suicide have been increasingly touted as a solution for the terminally ill. Four years ago, social media fluttered with sympathy for cancer victim Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old Californian who moved to Oregon to take advantage of its assisted suicide laws. She advocated for this right to die for those with terminal illnesses. Millions supported her decision and see assisted suicide as a solution to suffering. Some have even lobbied for the right to assisted suicide for advanced mental illness, and this is law in the Netherlands.
All this really means is that we are talking out of both sides of our mouth. For all of our faux mourning and naval gazing about what leads people to take their lives, we ignore the fact that we are sending a mixed message to suffering people. We hate suffering, but how much self-destruction will we tolerate to mitigate it? People will continue to see suicide as a viable solution as long as we applaud suicide for the unhealthy and lament it for the able bodied.
I’m Broderick Hooker, and this is my perspective.