Those of us that say people are responsible for their own actions even if they are depressed are called unenlightened. That is the nice term. Is it harsh to hold people responsible for their actions? We are a nation given to understanding the actions and not placing a moral judgement on those actions. I would argue the lack of moral judgement results in increased pain and suffering across all aspects of society. Let’s explore how that approach impacts suicides in the US.
It used to be that those who committed suicide were looked down on as having taken the easy way out while leaving their problems to their survivors. It was not glorified, accepted or OK, even if it was prompted by depression, mental illness, or drug abuse. Committing suicide had a stigma associated with it. According to CDC and the Society for Suicide Prevention the rate of suicides has increased slightly each year for the past 5 years. If we continue to excuse it, place no stigma to it, excuse it because it was caused by depression, then it will continue to increase. How can you truly value life, but excuse self-murder?
Depression is a scourge, millions face those demons on a dally basis. I would argue that every person that seeks suicide has by that point screwed up chemistry and thought processes. They are unable to distinguish a good idea from a bad one. Suicide to them looks like a valid option. If society says its a valid option, then one possible deterrent is taken away.
Some teens have even seen mass suicide as a valid approach to problem solving. The devaluing of life seen since the implementation of Row vs Wade, and with the promotion of euthanasia as a valid approach to the end of life has cheapened life. There is a movement to understand the why of depression and not to blame the depressed for their own actions. Millions of depressed people act rationally every day. The horror of the act is no less whether it is caused by depression or something else.
If we excuse self-murder because the person was depressed, why do we not excuse mass-murderers because they are depressed. When Adam Lanza in Sandy Hook gunned down 20 children did we say that it was OK, because he was depressed.
As a society we should do everything we can to help those who are in the throws of depression, or caught in the web of substance abuse to get help. We should encourage them to seek treatment, report them if they seem to be a danger to themselves or others. I would suggest that we make it clear as a society that suicide is not an acceptable out. We have moved well away from that and as a result we have more suicides and not less. Perhaps we should put the stigma back onto the suicide. Would that save lives?