The Right to Die With Dignity

The Right to Die With Dignity

Jennifer Maria Padron, M.Ed, CPS, PhDc Public Health & Amanda Barnabe

We are US Peers and we are Peers in everything that Peerness implies from State (Georgia, Maryland, Texas) certification. Acting in a healer saint wrap around service advocate activist give back to the community type of social supportive role, Peer supports and professional adherence accounting for personal-responsibility rings true. As well, we hold fast (in sum) to all federal Certified Peer Specialist SAMSHA related principles and codes.

We work pro bono or on average for >$12/hr as a Certified Peer Specialist in both public and private behavioral health systems of care for US Mental Health (MH), Substance Use (SUD) and now are in support of any individual experiencing criminal justice intersected challenges and where behind locked doors robbed of hope, we have insured that the Forensic Peer Recovery Specialist Endorsement and Certification is your brand new best friend in the State of Maryland.

We are unapologetic queers, submersed in this revolution of peer developed and implemented advancements battling a dark history of psychiatric practices.

We are practiced as a Certified Peer Specialist in the frontier, in rural and urban environments of the US.

We are trained, practiced and tried first responders and we are respected in 24/7/364 mobile crisis intervention (MH/SUD) and/or emergency response in rural and metropolitan environments where the demographics are broadly suicide or homicide or sometimes both.

We are the other and we know it.

We’re the damned.

We are the nonconforming square pegs, metropolitan, gender queer, gender fluid, gender non-conforming non-Judeo Christian, women of color with a disabling previous diagnosis of serious persistent mental illness.

We live lives in recovery as tortured psychiatric survivors who have survived to now.

We are more than our diagnosis.

We are more than our sexual identity.

We don’t buy-in to mental health or mental illness or the disease model or the medical model.

We get it and expect more.

If you can, then do. If you can’t, step aside for us to get ‘er done.

In the Winter of 2012 I (Padron, 2012) was impressed with five completions.

The State of Texas Department of State Health Services and Mental Health America of Texas Suicide Prevention point of contacts dealing with suicide education and prevention contacted me to ask me if I knew the details on the 5 completions from suicide of peers. I was aghast. Yes, I knew them. I know them. Their thinking was that they had a cluster on their hands. I hung up. I deleted their emails. I did not return their calls. I did not accept their calls.

Death and dying from our own hands is not a new feature to this (dis)ease. There is one death by suicide in the US every 12.3 minutes and every 30 seconds globally.

We are of the opinion today that should a person desire to die, then that is their right. At the moment there is anything sembling a Plan, there is nothing you or I can say to another person truly to “save” that life. It is one’s right inasmuch and as stigmatizing that suicide and mental illness is punitive, deadly even, it is in our experience that quite simply what works is to simply sit and listen with the individual in distress, in turmoil and emotional, physical, spiritual pain.

Inasmuch as the impulse derides or appears to lack any commonsensical logical thinking at the moment or eclipse of completing – saying simply, I love you or I would miss you terribly helps both people at the crux of a suicidal intervention back to center. Mixed episodes for those diagnosed with Bipolar 1 disorders tend to be at greatest risk.

Now, we ask you why then when, why, how and where does our dying and planning one’s death, and/or even by talking about it between ourselves, with others (e.g., lover, friend, family, providers) is this act formally considered a new feature and the not so (un)symptomatic of the clinically depressed, the bipolar disorders, the schizophrenia spectrum disorders, or anxiety/panic and/or the personality disorders?

The 25 year, on average, mortality rates of individuals living with a serious persistent mental illness number in the hundreds of thousands today (NASMHPD, 2007). It is my community’s genocide.

Why shouldn’t we count pharmaceutical and population’s genocide to psychiatric diagnosis and assuming my logic is correct then, why is Suicidal Completion numbers so shocking to you?

Many friends and colleagues are lost to dying from physically based illnesses such as cancer, heart attacks, congestive heart failure, stroke, car accidents, drownings and the like and more from suicidal completion. What is the difference between my dying from 30 years of consuming psychotropic prescriptions killing me slowly, like rat poison, with its’ long term effects causing pre-diabetic ailments, exhaustion, mind numbing grips of lack of passionate living, obesity, high blood pressure, cognitive impairment, or taking my life as juxtaposed with dying from a socially acceptable debilitating disease?

For selfish reasons alone, as a Certified Peer Specialist (Georgia, Maryland, Texas) we are rather directed by SAMHSA and national Core Competencies to provide Hope via all fashionable ventures in the name of Recovery. My story will not save anyone. My Hope and Story certainly cannot and will not save another person from completing. We’ve tried. We’ve lost too many. That we’re still walking, breathing, bitching and pissed off says it all. We are invincible. With at least ten (10) combined failed attempts, we conclude that we are unkillable. We are immortal.

We are Spiritually led to the opinion that the right to die a good death in dignity is an inherent privilege and may very well be perhaps the only thing which we retain control over, truly. There is one death by suicide in the US every 12.3 minutes and every 30 seconds globally. Individuals are killing ourselves off, completing, because living a life with a diagnosed serious persistent mental illness equates to being held in shackles by the current US antiquated, creaking, leaking mental health system built from a history of asylum, of involuntary commitment, of psychoactive medication dosing, chemical restraints and the dichotomy of failed medical healthcare professionals and vulnerable mental health consumers.

We are privy to terrible drownings and more divergent choices of suicidal completion (e.g., hanging, guns, auto, motorcycle, biking, cliff/bridge jumping, belts, poison, od’s, auto erotic asphyxiation). The US Community Public Mental Health system is in the business of Death and we are Agents of it, then.

We see no difference between dying from a terminal Stage IV invasive physical disease or the fact that 45 combined years of consuming psychotropic prescriptions is killing our bodies like mercury poisoning, with presumptive and eventual long term effects causing diabetic related ailments, exhaustion, mind numbing grips of lack of passionate living, obesity, disjointed involuntary movements, high blood pressure, cognitive impairment.

The right to die a good death in dignity is an inherent privilege and may very well be perhaps the only thing which we retain control over, truly.

Rate of Queer suicide attempts (%) (Trevor Foundation and Williams Institute 2016)

  • According to surveys, 4.6 percent of the overall U.S. population has self-reported a suicide attempt, with that number climbing to between 10 and 20 percent for lesbian, gay or bisexual respondents. By comparison, 41 percent of trans or gender non-conforming people surveyed have attempted suicide.
  • The most recent, comprehensive data on suicide attempts was gathered by The Williams Institute, in collaboration with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Its report, Suicide Attempts Among Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Adults, analyzed responses from 6,456 self-identified transgender and gender non-conforming adults (18+) who took part in the U.S. National Transgender Discrimination Survey.
  • Beyond the overall number of suicide attempts, the rates are consistently high from respondents ages 18 to 65, when they begin to recede. Trans men are the most impacted, with 46 percent reporting an attempt in their lifetime. Trans women are close behind at 42 percent, and female-assigned cross-dressers report rates of 44 percent.
  • Rates of transgender and gender non-confirming suicide attempts by age (%) (Source 2016).
  • Rates of transgender and gender non-confirming suicide attempts by gender identity (%) (Source 2016).
  • Race and ethnicity also play a role. More than half of all American Indian, Alaska Natives and mixed-race/ethnicity respondents have attempted to take their own lives, and the figures aren’t much better for the black (45 percent) and Latino (44 percent) trans communities. Even those with the lowest rates—Asian or Pacific Islander and white respondents—are still almost nine times higher than the national average.

Queer adolescents are more likely to be involuntarily committed to a long term mental health facility where they are subjected to being forcibly medicated with powerful psychotropic drugs, and archaic treatments such as aversion therapy, sensory deprivation, rotational therapy, ECT, restraint isolation and other inhumane practices. Homosexuality was removed from the DSM in 1973 but we are still persecuted, tortured and psychically damaged in our community’s youth.

SAMHSA’s efforts and initiative to increase the numbers of “saved” lives from suicide is telling. People are killing themselves out of presumably apparent poverty, experienced trauma, loss, grief, hate crimes, living shelterlessly, living disenfranchised and marginalized, from battling in combat and seeing it full front and center or from being out and out and exhaustively beaten to a pulp by our mental health system.

In SAMHSA’s and the Alliance for Suicide Prevention (2012) paper and study, “National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: How You Can Play a Role in Preventing Suicide,” they comprehensively detail the following facts:

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, claiming more than twice as many lives each year as homicides. i
  • On average, more than 33,000 Americans died each year between 2001 and 2009 as a result of suicide—more than 1 person every 12.5 minutes. ii
  • More than 8 million adults reported having serious suicidal thoughts in the past year, 2.5 million people reported making a suicide plan in the past year, and 1.1 million reported a suicide attempt in the past year. iii
  • Nearly 16 percent of students in grades 9 to 12 report having seriously considered suicide, and
  • 8 percent report having attempted suicide once or more in the past 12 months. iv

Although suicide can affect anyone, the following populations are known to have an increased risk for “suicidal” behaviors:

  • Individuals with mental and/or substance use disorders;
  • Individuals bereaved by suicide;
  • Individuals in justice and child welfare settings;
  • Individuals who engage in non-suicidal self-injury;
  • Individuals who have attempted suicide;
  • Individuals with medical conditions;
  • Individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT);
  • American Indians/Alaska Natives;
  • Members of the Armed Forces and veterans;
  • Males in midlife; and
  • Older

Further, in SAMSHA’s Leading Change 2.0: Advancing the Behavioral Health of the Nation 2015-2018. (HHS Publication No. (PEP) 14-LEADCHANGE2. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014.) they speak to creating, “… a framework and process for identifying, developing, and implementing strategies to yield specific outcomes and ultimately influence system change” (p. 6). SAMHSA’s Strategic Initiative (SI #3, pp. 19-22) describes Disparities fall-out:

“Trauma, violence, and involvement with the criminal justice system disproportionately affect individuals, families, and communities of color, including indigenous and native populations. Racial, ethnic, sexual, and gender minority individuals experience trauma not just as individuals, but often also in the context of historical, intergenerational, or community trauma, which further compounds the effects of specific traumatic events. Mass trauma, such as natural disasters, often leave these communities underserved, unserved, or cut off from recovery resources. These communities are overrepresented in the justice system, are provided less opportunities for diversion from the system, and often move deeper into a system that itself is traumatizing and not geared toward recovery for people with mental or substance use disorders. For some people in these communities, the justice system becomes the de facto behavioral health system.”

For hundreds upon thousands of individuals living within the spiritual and emotional day to day anguish compounds and builds traumatizing distress. For individuals living with dual diagnosis and/or co-occurring physical health issues, how does recovery and hope really save us from the very “medicinal” prescriptive medications which are killing us slowly, bit by bit, day after day? They will not and they won’t help. We have accepted that we are dying a fast death biochemically due to extraneous debilitating side effects from 45 years of combined clinically invasive medication with concurrent treatment adherence at the hands of psychiatric staff nationwide. Our vital body organs are damaged, disease inflicted. We show premature damaged sugared blood coursing our veins blurring vision. Increasing terrible physical pain, aching and tenderness with effected cognition and comprehensibility is affected. We are already dying and we welcome relief.

Our argument rests in the very simple understanding that there is no difference between physical or psychiatric illness. That the body inherently breaks down and dies is tantamount to one’s humanity towards longevity of eternal life of one’s mind, heart and spirit. The daily poisoning of one’s body daily with antipsychotics, antidepressants, mood stabilizers from big pharma (e.g., Eli Lilly, Astrazeneca, Bristol Myers Squibb) weighs heavily on increasing opportunity for physical structural breaking down due to consistent poisonous or negligible medication dosing.

Symptoms to many of these very prescriptive psychiatric solutions is increased suicidal ideation which may or may not lead to death of the body. Given the presumptive mutual agreement between provider and acknowledging non-revocability to remaining truly self-informed, then contractually, we retain a right to die a physical death. We choose not to accept that which is de facto from a failed behavioral health and public community mental health system within the United States, or being jailed physically, and to be scapegoated publically and personally.

To die in dignity means that you must acknowledge and accept a daily walk with Death.  “Die Wise: A Manifesto for Soul and Spirit” Author Stephen Jenkinson, a Death Doula, a man busy in the death industry speaks to one’s right to die wisely. No judgment. There is just honoring the individual’s right to choose how to, when to and where.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fatal Injury Data, 2009. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/fatal.html. Accessed January 12,
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fatal Injury Data, 2009. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/fatal.html. Accessed January 12,
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Utilization of mental health services by adults with suicidal thoughts and behavior. (National Survey on Drug Use and The NSDUH Report.) Rockville, MD: Author; 2011.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2011. MMWR. 2012;61(4) 1-162

 

 

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