Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Suicide is painless

M*A*S*H*, the television show, was one of the most popular shows on television for at least 10 years. It premiered on September 17, 1972, and concluded on February 28, 1983. The final show was the most watched television show in history at the time, with a record-breaking 125 million viewers for the final episode. Like many people, my wife and I attended a M*A*S*H* party with some of our close friends in Wisconsin. Like many people, we also were hoping for a happy ending for the series, but the writers had other ideas.

In view of the fact that the title theme for the show was “suicide is painless”, my thoughts for a happy ending were hopelessly optimistic, but it’s still an enjoyable song to listen to:

M*A*S*H* theme song

Oddly enough, the show came to mind again a few days before Thanksgiving, due to the fact that Flagstaff got another dusting of snow, even though we live in “sunny Arizona”. Fortunately, Flagstaff also gets a fairly high percentage of available sunlight, which generally melts the white stuff off fairly quickly, and keeps everybody’s spirits in an elevated state. As a matter of fact, Flagstaff actually gets more sunshine than either Los Angeles or San Diego.

In contrast, Washington State has 15 cities that receive the LEAST amount of available sunlight, which has led to the popular belief that Washington State has the highest suicide rate.

It’s a logical conclusion, but it’s simply not true.

The state that has the highest suicide rate in America is Alaska, and Washington State isn’t even the top 10. Almost without exception, the states that have the highest suicide rates also have the least restrictive gun laws.

By far, the group that is most as risk for suicide is white males older than 65 years old, and the “method of choice” for suicide is firearms, which is the cause of nearly 60% of all suicides. Logically, you’d think that it would make sense to limit gun licenses to 4 years, and require a mental health check be performed before they could be renewed. Since the NRA and the Citizens Defense League are no longer capable of logical thought, it’s unlikely that a mental health check every 4 years would every get through the legislative process.

It’s also common knowledge that there are more suicides during the wintertime due to the fact that there are a lot more days without sunshine during that time period. Again, though, it’s a conclusion that simply isn’t valid. The majority of suicides actually occur during the springtime, which psychologists have termed “the suicide season”.

Admittedly, the holiday season is a stressful time for most of us. If you’re intelligent enough to avoid the Black Friday (and Gray Thursday) sales, December is a time of the year when we all have higher expenses (utility bills and Christmas shopping) and less income (due to unpaid days off). We’re all familiar with the Hallmark character named Maxine, and her summary of the holiday season happens to be right on the mark.

This is also the time of the year when the phrase “happy holidays” gets some people all tied up in knots, and one example (which is being sold by the Republican Party) is shown below:

The phrase “Merry Christmas” doesn’t offend me, but neither does the phrase “happy holidays”. In addition to the Christian holiday of Christmas (which is patterned after the pagan holiday of Saturnalia), followers of the Jewish religion celebrate Hanukkah, African-Americans celebrate Kwanzaa, Hindus celebrate Diwali, and pagans celebrate Yule.

For now, let’s set aside thoughts about suicide, since it’s hardly a topic that’s going to bring holiday cheer. Instead, I’d like to close with a phrase that Charles Dickens wrote in 1843:

“God bless us,everyone”.

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