Suicide is in the air. Our culture–particularly exemplified by the media–is becoming increasingly pro suicide. Perhaps better stated, many are now pro some suicides. Indeed, if a suicidal person is sick, disabled, even mentally ill, many believe it is perfectly fine for a doctor to facilitate death through intentional overdose, and many families now support their loved one’s self-killing.
In mental health journals, some writers distinguish between “rational” and “irrational” suicides, with only the latter being something to be deeply regretted and prevented. Movies extol suicides and euthanasia, as in Million Dollar Baby. Jack Kevorkian has been transformed by blatant revisionism from the real-life ghoul he was–driven by the obsession to experiment on living people he was killing–into a compassionate Muppet-like character. Suicide prevention still exists, to be sure, but it receives ever less emphasis in our increasingly nihilistic society.
So, why should we be surprised that there has been a sharp increase in suicide rates in the USA generally, with an even higher spike at Assisted Suicide Central, e.g., Oregon? From the Oregonian story:
New figures showing a sharp increase in suicides across the nation among middle-aged Americans show an even bigger increase in Oregon. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows Oregon saw a 49.3 percent increase in suicides among men and women aged 35-64 from 1999-2010, compared to 28 percent nationally. A 2012 report on suicide trends and risk factors for the Oregon Health Authority found the state’s overall suicide rate was 41 percent higher than the national rate, that rural counties have higher rates of suicide than urban ones, and that white men lead other demographic groups.
It should be noted here that the OHA doesn’t include legal assisted suicides in its suicide rates. So, the actual rate is worse than reported.
When we approve of some suicides, the existentially suffering don’t necessarily distinguish between those that are deemed OK and those that aren’t. There are many other factors at work, of course. But I believe that assisted suicide advocacy helps drive the meme that suicide is an acceptable answer to serious difficulties, weakening the societal bulwarks that sometimes prevent people from bringing their desire to be dead to completion.