Life is worth living


From 1952 until 1957, one of the most widely viewed programs on American television was Bishop Fulton Sheen’s Life is Worth Living. It is difficult to imagine anything like this inspirational one-man lecture show becoming a hit now. But the seemingly unremarkable proposition offered by its title is one that I wish more of us were willing to affirm.

Between 2007 and 2018, the suicide rate among young people aged between 10 and 24 increased by some 57 percent. This is nearly double the already significant increase of around 28 percent among the American population as a whole during roughly the same period.

Why are young people in this country taking their own lives with such horrifying frequency? Any number of facile explanations have been advanced. The most common one is that there is insufficient public investment in mental health services. I find this unpersuasive, not least because the number of young people committing suicide was much lower 50 years ago, when virtually no one received (or even offered) such treatment. It is the usual liberal answer that more money and more credentialism can solve any problem, the same one offered (even more dubiously) to explain why American children are worse at reading than they were half a century ago, when we spent vastly less on education and teachers had studied their subjects instead of pseudo-scientific pedagogy and there were no iPads in our classrooms.

Others will mention the economy, that catch-all replacement for what we used to think of as “society.” While it is true that the uptick during the last decade began with the crash of 2007-08, it continued apace during the long recovery of Barack Obama’s second and Donald Trump’s first presidential terms. If the recession were the sole or even among the main culprits, one would expect to have seen a leveling off many years ago.

The last and almost certainly the most absurd explanation you are likely to encounter for the increase in suicide among the young is private firearm ownership. While it is true that self-inflicted gunshots are the method used in a narrow majority — just over 50 percent — of suicides, the staggering rates of gun ownership belie any meaningful causal relationship. Besides, among the group in which the suicide rate is increasing most precipitously — white teenaged girls — firearms account for vastly fewer deaths than, for example, suffocation. We live in a country full of guns. Blaming them for an increase in suicides makes about as much sense as blaming pillows.

At bottom, it seems to me that there is no single identifiable explanation for this distressing phenomenon. The horror of self-slaughter is one of those great human constants, like normative monogamy or artistic creation, that has prevailed across all decent civilizations throughout the history of our species. There is a very real sense in which I think a person’s decision to take his or her own life can never be explained.

There is, however, one thing to which I would point if …read more

Source:: The Week – Health


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