Is the time ever right for suicide?

dsdepression_550pxWhat does it say about American society that more middle-aged people now die of suicide than of car accidents?

While I wouldn’t say that suicide rates are soaring–the suicide rate for middle-age men was 27.3 deaths per 100,000, while for women it was 8.1 deaths per 100,000, according to the most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)—these numbers do represent a dramatic increase from previous norms.

For men in their 50s, suicide rates jumped by nearly 50 percent in the decade from 1999 to 2010. For women, the largest increase was seen in those ages 60 to 64, among whom rates increased by nearly 60 percent during that decade.

A few weeks ago I was stunned to hear that an old friend of mine, a woman in her 50s, had committed suicide by hanging.

I have bad days too, when I just want to lay down my load and become a lily in the field.  We all do.  But to actually plan and execute a self-hanging?  That I find hard to fathom.

Apparently most men commit suicide by self-inflicted gunshot wounds, while women are more likely to take their lives through overdoses of prescription medication.

According to the CDC report, poisoning deaths were up 24 percent overall from 1999-2010, while hangings were up 81 percent.

Whenever I find myself feeling too despairing, I remind myself that I have to hang on at least until my two children are independent and self-sufficient.

The truth is that if you have children, there can never be a right time to commit suicide.

Your children are always going to be counting on you to be blazing the trail ahead, setting the example, holding the fort.

It would be terribly selfish of me to give up and take my own life.

I believe that people should have the right to make their own end-of-life decisions.  If I were diagnosed with a terminal disease, I would want the ability to dictate the circumstances of my death.

And it’s true that in some ways, we are all living with a death sentence.  All of us will die sooner or later—of that we can rest assured.

For some people—for instance, the hunger-strikers at Guantanamo—courage wears a suicidal face.

All in all, it’s what we do with this short, precious lifetime that matters.  What do we want to be remembered for?  What do we want to leave behind?

I want to be remembered as a woman who confronted the challenges of my individual life, and my zeitgeist, head on.  Who did not give up, ever.  Who looked on the bright side and tried to see the glass as half-full.  Who blazed a trail for those behind me to follow.

There are some desperately serious situations to which suicide is a rational response.  If I were to come to such an impasse, I hope I would have the courage to do the right thing.

But in the meantime, I will continue to embrace all the challenges life throws at me, and meet my own expectations for being a stalwart mother, daughter, sister, friend and teacher.  It’s the least–and the best–that I can do.

Round up the chemicals–for our children’s sake

When I was pregnant with my second son, born in 1998, I was living out in the country in a small house next to my parents’ bigger house.  My son was born in late August, and all through that third trimester I spent a lot of time outside.

In those years, my mother had the habit of having her pebble driveway sprayed with Round-up a few times during the summer to keep the grass and weeds at bay.  Since the pebbles came right up by the front door of our little house, the Round-up was there too.  I complained to her that it was toxic, bad for our pets, not to mention us, but it took many years for her to pay enough attention to this issue to rate health more highly than a neat appearance for the driveway.

I was thinking about this today as I read the news that finally, at long last, the medical research establishment is beginning to go public in announcing the link between the use of Round-up, skyrocketing rates of autism among children, and colony collapse disorder among bees.

My mother will remember that when my second son was born, we began to worry about him when, by his second and third month of life, he was still not making eye contact, and not returning a smile. He was a sweet, calm baby who slept and ate well, and loved to be cuddled…but unlike his older brother, who was laughing and smiling in his first month, he had a curious detachment about him that was unsettling.

Just like everyone knows someone with cancer, everyone knows someone who has had the hardship of bringing up an autistic child.  It’s a heartbreaker, and in those early months with my second son I was truly frightened that I might be in for that kind of ride with him.

And then, just like that, he started to smile, make eye contact, and all was well.

Could it be that his development was delayed because of the local spraying of Round-up during the last months of my pregnancy with him?

Recent research suggests that this is quite possible indeed.

It’s common knowledge that the Monsantos and Dows of the world use their immense fortune to suppress negative research when at all possible.

Source: U.S. Center for Disease Control

But at this point, with our bee population in serious crisis and the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) telling us that 1 in 88 children is now diagnosed with autism (a figure that does not include all the many, many children who are diagnosed “on the spectrum” with some form of mental impairment), it is impossible for the corporate honchos to keep the lid on this story any longer.

It is an international scandal, bigger even than the Big Tobacco scandals of a generation ago, because in this case there is no way that a defense team could argue that it is a child’s choice to expose herself to toxic chemicals.

France, Germany, Italy and other European countries have already taken steps to ban these harmful pesticides and herbicidesThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, finally acting under extreme pressure from concerned citizens, is in the process of “reconsidering” its approval for “Poncho,” one of the most dangerous pesticides, proven to have a negative impact on bees.

Dr. Brian Moench, President of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists this week had the courage to defy Big Ag and describe—I believe for the first time—the missing link between bee colony collapse disorder, human autism, and widespread toxic chemical use in agriculture.

In an article published Monday on Common Dreams, Dr. Moench wrote: “The brain of insects is the intended target of these insecticides.  They disrupt the bees homing behavior and their ability to return to the hive, kind of like “bee autism.”   But insects are different than humans, right?   Human and insect nerve cells share the same basic biologic infrastructure.  Chemicals that interrupt electrical impulses in insect nerves will do the same to humans.  But humans are much bigger than insects and the doses to humans are  miniscule, right?

“During critical first trimester development a human is no bigger than an insect so there is every reason to believe that pesticides could wreak havoc with the developing brain of a human embryo.   But human embryos aren’t out in corn fields being sprayed with insecticides, are they?  A recent study showed that every human tested had the world’s best selling pesticide, Roundup, detectable in their urine at concentrations between five and twenty times the level considered safe for drinking water.”

Just down the road from the house where I lived while pregnant with my second son are fields of corn that are maintained by a local farmer.  It’s nowhere near the scale of agriculture in the Midwest or California, but still, if the wind was blowing while they were spraying the herbicides and pesticides in the spring, or while they were harvesting the corn in the fall, we would certainly be inhaling a toxic brew, that undoubtedly found its way into our well water.

And that’s beside the voluntary Round-up spraying of the driveway, and the fact that in those days I was not aware enough to be making a strong effort to buy organic fruits and vegetables, and avoid commercial meat.

So all in all I must consider myself and my family very lucky to have so far avoided autism or cancer.

This should not be left to luck.  Allowing Monsanto, Dow and the other agricultural chemical companies to continue to profit from poisoning our land and our food supply is absolutely unconscionable.

It’s even worse than allowing the cigarette industry to advertise to young people, which we no longer permit.

The bees are the canaries in the gold mine, and they’re dropping fast.

Are we going to delay until the statistics tell us that 1 in 50 children in the U.S. are born autistic?

This is a national and international outrage that must be addressed now.

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