It’s interesting to see how the deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade have resonated in the national dialog. After the slew of celebrity deaths in recent years, I figured people would be numb to hearing this shit and quickly move on to the next thing. But that hasn’t happened. Suicide is a little too real for most folks.
Some reputable source somewhere (I don’t do research) said that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Statistics have skyrocketed
Why? Well, various reasons….opioid addiction, poor access to mental health care, etc.
But life simply sucks.
I should know. Because, as you know, I’ve been hospitalized twice for attempted suicide. The last time should have ABSOLUTELY killed me. Sometimes I think it did and that I’m walking the earth unaware that I’m dead like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense. I’m fine now, but unfortunately there will come a day when I will feel the urge to do so again. The numbers are not in my favor. With a history of alcohol abuse, mental illness in my family, and prior suicide attempts…the likelihood of dying by my own hand is pretty good.
No one likes to hear that. It makes everyone uncomfortable. But that’s the truth.
What can WE do, as a nation, to stop people from killing themselves?
I mean, clearly…you know…get people off drugs and give them access to health care. That’s priority number one. In fact, if we just did those things, suicide rates would plummet.
But is there something deeper in the American psyche that’s fueling this despair? Naturally I think so. It’s been my view that a culture which leans heavily into shame to bring conformity is begging for a depressed population. Throw that shame in with neoliberal meritocracy, suddenly we have large swaths of people that become disconnected with their culture. People are overworked. They take to certain substances to relieve stress like alcohol. Doctors freely hand out opioids. The only way we can connect with others is through digital devices. So we become addicted, lonely, stressed, and falling farther and farther behind.
So we’re bitter people, unable to extend empathy towards anyone. Really, if we want to rid ourselves of this rot in the American psyche…empathy is the only path forward.
I mean…I get it. We’ve all had this callous attitude towards people in distress. Now that suicide is in the national conversation, I’ve been evaluating my own heartless words and actions in the past. In short, I was an asshole. Radical individualism is so engrained into the American experience that we’ve come to believe in this “self-determination” bullshit. We believe that if people are suffering, it’s their own fucking fault….no tears should be wasted on the weak. This is such a prevalent subconscious conception, that no matter what your background is or what your beliefs are…as an American, you are guilty of being a careless asshole to some poor soul.
Shaming each other is pointless. We’re all guilty.
The first step towards becoming better people, not just to prevent suicide but to benefit all peoples, is to realize that there are bigger things than the national debt. Bigger things than ideology. Bigger things than, dare I say, being an AMERICAN. People are dying. People don’t want to be alive. People are suffering. Families being ripped apart. People starving. The list goes on. That shit is REAL.
And you are one bad day away from being in their shoes.