Suicide leads in the main topic of movies submitted to Mental Filmness, and I’m sure that’s for a reason. It’s hard to find someone whose life hasn’t been touched by the suicide epidemic in some way. Many stories of mental illness have some mention of suicide, even if it isn’t the main topic. I took a Constitutional Law class last semester and remember being moved by these words from Justice Stevens pertaining to the right to suicide.
“History and tradition provide ample support for refusing to recognize an open ended constitutional right to commit suicide. Much more than the State’s paternalistic interest in protecting the individual from the irrevocable consequences of an ill advised decision motivated by temporary concerns is at stake. There is truth in John Donne’s observation that “No man is an island.” The State has an interest in preserving and fostering the benefits that every human being may provide to the community–a community that thrives on the exchange of ideas, expressions of affection, shared memories and humorous incidents as well as on the material contributions that its members create and support. The value to others of a person’s life is far too precious to allow the individual to claim a constitutional entitlement to complete autonomy in making a decision to end that life. Thus, I fully agree with the Court that the “liberty” protected by the Due Process Clause does not include a categorical “right to commit suicide which itself includes a right to assistance in doing so.”
Sometimes I’ve thought about the funerals I’ve attended, and my own in the future, and how many people will end up attending who were just on the peripheral vision of the deceased’s life. A childhood friend they hadn’t seen in years, a co-worker who was fond of them, a distant relative who brought them toys when they were young. It’s hard to go through this life without touching others in some way. Even a hermit living off the grid has some impact in their relationship with nature. We all send out energy into the world. “No man is an island.”
I’ve been suicidal and known others who were, and I know that telling someone to live their life for others isn’t necessarily the best thing to say. But I’ve also heard stories of those who found some kind of positive connection when they needed it most and it ended up making a difference. As sappy as it sounds, I mostly believe in the whole “It’s A Wonderful Life” effect, where if most people could see all the little ripples they’ve sent out into the world, many even unintentionally, they would view it differently.