Just Watched “Facing Suicide”
As I was watching the PBS show “Facing Suicide”, major issues popped out at me, issues not directly addressed by the show.
I have spent most of my life without a huge will to live and even attempted suicide as a teen-ager. As a widow, I see two distinct types of suicide. Type one: life is too much for me, good bye. Type two: I want to be reunited with my departed loved one (“I’m coming, hon”). The show did not talk at all about type two, which might be viral in a community. The community of Arlee, Montana was highlighted, but it made me wonder if some of them were simply trying to join their friends who had killed themselves. As a teen, I felt alone. Perhaps some of the suicides there finally felt like they weren’t alone.
One issue that I have lived is the question of what exactly counts as suicide. If someone has cancer and refuses a treatment that might buy them five more years, does that count as suicide? Also, I remember, in my twenties, thinking seriously about driving off a particular bridge. My vehicle pulled to the right. If I let go of the wheel, would that have counted? As if that weren’t enough, I have brothers dying of cirrhosis. When you are doing a behavior, like drinking or using drugs, that is killing your body and continue that behavior steadfastly, how is that not suicide? Somehow, I suspect that that does not get counted in the statistics. The 47,000 suicides that do get counted in the United States seem ridiculously low. It seems artificially narrow, like the unemployment statistics that only count those people that are not students and are actively looking for work. Broke students desperate for employment don’t get counted and neither do the people that have simply given up looking for gainful employment. Hence, my suspicion of statistics.
My other cynicism comes from our culture defining pretty much everything now as a “mental health problem.” For example, someone is having a panic attack because they are being evicted. I am suggesting that an anti-depressant is not a relevant solution. What is the answer? Housing. We are taking these massive systemic issues and trying to define them on an individual level. Epic fail. All the access to mental health resources in the world will not begin to address these issues. I see simplistic attempts to address complex, trauma-related problems as having a zero percent chance of succeeding.
I just ordered Gabor Mate’s new book The Myth of Normal. I am so excited. Perhaps he can inject some sanity into the conversation. The show was not bad, just the bare-bones beginning of the conversation.