The deserving and the undeserving suicidal

I remember some early classes on sociology in health care as a student nurse and our lecturer spoke about the deserving and the undeserving poor – We see this in the strivers v scivers debate currently prevalent as elections approach.  When leafing through a Sunday paper last year, I was upset to find a further divide showing its ugly head. On one page there was the article about the Afghan veteran soldier who had taken his own life, having struggled to cope back home. He had posted a you tube message before his suicide. The article focussed on how awful the lack of support is for our boys once back home – that this was unnecessary; that we should strive (there’s that word) to ensure that we provide better mental health support; that we cannot let this happen; that if this particular soldier had had that support we could have perhaps helped him through an obvious severe depression. The underlying message within this article was that because we value life, we should work to help people keep it. On the very next page was an article about a man in the early stages of dementia, still eloquent enough to make a request to go to Switzerland because he could not bear the thought of being a burden to his family. This struck me evidently of a man, recently diagnosed, full of understandable fear but al;so full of myths and misconceptions around dementia, making an assumption about how his family might perceive him in the future (as a burden) and about how dependant he will  become and how the quality of his life might be severely prejudiced. What struck me then was the tone of this article compared to the one on the previous page. It gave off the message that how unfair it was that this man could not be allowed to access a euthanasia when he wanted. Where was the clarion call from the previous article? Where was the call to say how come this man who is clearly depressed and seeking to give up on life is not getting the support he deserves; the information he deserves around the very realistic possibility of a life worth living with dementia? Where is the call for the support for the whole family to be supported to brace themselves to face the presence of a dementia in their midst? The contrast was striking. Who deserves our support? Both of course but the tone of the second article betrayed an ageism rife in this country. It revealed an added division to those of poverty, race and gender in this country – a divide between the deserving and the undeserving suicidal

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