11 October, 2010

silent = deadly

When flicking furiously through the Herald Sun while you wait for your morning coffee, looking for the Sudoku which conveniently changes location in every single issue, you may have noticed that somewhere around the weather section there’s a little box in the corner that details the Daily Road Toll Update. It offers readers the current total of deaths caused by car accidents in Victoria and a statistical comparison of the same day in the previous calendar year? In case anyone was interested the tally stands at 234 deaths (7th October) and this is a 12% increase on last years total for the same date. This modest little box stands not only as a memorial to those lives that have been lost on our roads but also as a reminder of the destructive capability for which we are responsible every time we get behind the wheel.

Needless to say, this is pretty serious stuff. But what should be more alarming than these printed digits is the fact that significantly more people die every year from suicide than from motor vehicle related fatalities. This is meant as no disrespect to our rectangular shaped friend from the Herald Sun but as one of Australia’s leading cause of death, it would seem that the issue of suicide perhaps deserves a little more attention.

So we’re going to give it some.

According to the World Health Organisation’s Annual Report, in 2008 there were 2,191 registered deaths from suicide and nearly 80% of these reported cases were males. While this makes up only 1.5% of all registered deaths in Australia, it is alarming to recognize that this figure accounts for a significantly greater proportion of deaths within selected age groups. For example, of all the registered deaths of males aged 15-24 years, 24% were due to suicide.

Put simply… one quarter of all young males who die – die because they kill themselves.

Another disturbing statistical standout is that the age-specific suicide rate for indigenous males aged 25-34 lies at ten times the national standard rate. It is this elevated rate of suicide among Aboriginal communities that accounts for the Northern Territory consistently reporting the highest number of suicides in the country.

Now while the national standard suicide rate has declined slightly over the past decade it should come as little comfort when we recognise that an increase in larger and less personal communities, mental health problems including depression, substance abuse issues, conflicts over sexual identity, violence and abuse, and even bullying in schools is causing individuals such emotional grief that they feel the only way out is to simply stop living.

This is the horrific reality that we as justice seekers must confront. I mean there are a plethora of social justice issues to be faced and suicide may even seem like the least of them, but what lies as the common foundation to all of these indignities is a flawed understanding of the inherent worth of humankind. So as the euthanasia debate rages on and the casualties of global conflict continue to rise, as human beings are considered nothing more than commodities to be consistently sold into slavery, and while individuals continue to remove themselves from reality believing it’s there only choice… we must respond with Hope.

A counter cultural response to the indignities of humanity must be a hope filled espousal of the sanctity of life.

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