News Roundup: Suicide, Koko, and Us

Mental health and depression are in the news. Again. These stories are often triggered by the latest story of a mass shooter. Most recently, it was the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, just days apart.

Labelling depression and suicide as “diseases” implies that the problem lies WITHIN each individual. I see it more as a reaction, a side effect, of our toxic society, which spotlights petty hostilities and greenlights behaviors and policies that marginalizing the weakest links — rather than strengthening them. I’m not just talking about the government. Every nasty comment someone makes on social media about someone else impact every reader.

I don’t suffer depression. Still, I, on an increasingly frequent basis, look at what’s become of the US, and how humans across the world value wealth over health — of the planet, of poor people’s lives, of animals lives, of oceans, of forests — and think, I don’t want to be here anymore. It hurts to witness this destruction. I feel utterly powerless and hopeless and helpless.

Add to that the passing of one of the pure, true lights of this lifetime: Koko. Koko the gorilla taught us that gorillas, like humans, are capable of self-awareness, love, empathy, humor, and communication. Unlike us, they harbor no memory of ancestral/racial/motherland grudge.

Gorillas are CRITICALLY ENDANGERED for a number of reasons. Among them, hunting for the bushmeat trade. MEAT. Humans cannibalize one of their closest DNA relatives. Humans sever gorilla body parts for trophies. And yet humans use the term “animal” as a pejorative. When people commit heinous acts of violence — like cutting off another human’s hand —  we call them “animal.” That is confused. That is wrong. THAT is human.

Maybe the powerless, hopeless and helpless I suffer at an entropic rate is the price I pay for wanting to be informed. I could have ignored stories about the cruelty in the agriculture industry; the poaching of wildlife; the suffering of animals because of our obsession with plastic (and how it’s clogging the ocean); the fact the people in Flint, MI still don’t have clean drinking water, while Nestle is sourcing it’s water to sell (in plastic bottles) from the same region; the fact that public education in this country is in the toilet. I could ignore the fact that people have time to be cruel trolls on social media, but no time to volunteer for those less fortunate. God knows I could go on and on with this list. But ignoring all of it doesn’t make it go away. And being aware of all of these ills honestly, sometimes makes me want to go, “fuck it, I’m out of here.”

I feel the same way about guns. Guns are not killing us. Our current model of society is creating a world where more and more people are saying, “fuck it,” before picking up a gun (or joining an extremist religious sect). Our society glorifies the majestic gun. Guns should be respected and treated with gravity, and not viewed as the willy nilly household item it’s become today.

Until we figure how how to stop people from saying “fuck it,” all the pharmaceuticals, all the pleas to “call someone” or “get help,” all the thoughts and prayers, all the gun legislation in the world is not going to fix this.

We need to come together. And honestly, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.