5. Why is suicide being presented as a solution, rather than a problem, when the people involved have disabilities?
September is Suicide Awareness Month and September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. I’m writing this because media coverage over the past year alone seems to warrant an explicit reminder that:
- We don’t lack awareness of people with disabilities committing suicide; we do allow vulnerable people to feel shame over chronic pain and depression.
- Our suicides deserve prevention, not encouragement and cultural misrepresentation, as in films such as Me Before You.
What’s the context beyond the medical? What are the underlying attitudes guiding how the media’s coverage of people with disabilities who have committed suicide or who are planning to do so?
This is, as you emphasize, their choice.
But please stop asking me, or any other individual with a stereotypically scary disability (progressive! degenerative! neuromuscular!), “So, what do you think about what this particular person’s doing?”
My opinion is irrelevant. Stop setting me up to be insensitive either to a suicidal person or their surviving family members.
Instead, start covering the true scope of the story. Refusing to look beyond the purely personal dimension of suicide is irresponsible when articles about people with disabilities choosing suicide are fast becoming — in the words of your craft — trend pieces.
The role of the media is essential — your role is to differentiate between the personal story of an individual, and the investigation and analysis of that singular story within a broader social context.
Here are questions that deserve investigation, analysis, and promotion:
1. What is it about our healthcare systems that have eroded faith in their ability to alleviate physical and emotional pain?