The technology of modern personal communication creates a lot of positive things for lots of people. Unfortunately it also has some drawbacks and the one I want to talk about here is how personal information in digital systems can be used to prevent suicide.
The prevention of suicide sounds like a good thing but this is a misnomer. Suicide is a valuable solution and a personal choice. Personally I believe that assisted suicide must be legalised and there should be a human right to choose one’s death.
However such views aren’t commonly held. Most of the suicide organisations and experts seem to support the prevention of suicide rather than recognise it is a personal choice. A substantial amount of effort is therefore put in to preventing suicidal individuals from accessing good suicide methods and digital technology provides an excellent way to surveil suicidal individuals to prevent them from killing themselves.
This is technology being used for persecution. I’m sure most technologists don’t see it that way and this ignorance is reinforced by the attitude of the police and healthcare professionals. It’s not thought of as persecution because it is being used to meet what are purported to be ethical objectives.
Suicide is perceived as a symptom of mental illness therefore it is an Irrational choice and vulnerable individuals need to be helped to prevent them from killing themselves. Using Outernet data to protect individuals from succeeding in killing themselves is therefore not persecution but care. Surveillance can also be used to connect suicidal individuals with people to talk to so, again, it’s a caring act to breach personal data privacy to help suicidal individuals get the support they need.
In fact this misuse of technology can make things worse. It is deemed ethical because it serves a mental healthcare objective. But it usurps the individual’s decision. It enforces a tyranny which believes no free individual can choose to kill themselves.
It is unethical to dominate someone’s free will with a view to suppressing their freedom but people in the technology sector aren’t ethicists. They look to other professionals such as mental health professionals to guide them. They especially defer to doctors just like the public do.
The faith in the healthcare profession and its ethics is woefully misguided I’m afraid. Its very foundation is unscientific and the rest is the fruit of a poisonous tree. Simply, the healthcare profession should never have governed the phenomenon of mental illness because mental illness isn’t an illness.
Remember how homosexuality was once a mental illness but is no longer thought of as an illness. It was never caused by a biological brain disease but it has been classed as a mental illness for a few centuries. What’s critical here is the way cultural norms and prejudice are disguised as scientific illnesses. Homosexuality wasn’t demedicalised because of new research which demonstrated there was no biological cause for it. It was demedicalised because cultural values changed.
Then there’s misery and depression. Depression is the medical construct for misery but the meaning of the phenomena are totally different. I think it’s easy to understand that intense or persistent misery are natural human responses but calling it depression changes the sense and masks the truth. Free men experience misery and it’s normal. Sick men have depression and it’s an abnormal, irrational response to life circumstances because it’s thought of as being caused by a brain defect.
If suicide is a rational response and a natural human choice then it’s not an illness. Just like homosexuality. Free men can choose but sick men can’t. Free men can choose suicide but sick minds can’t.
It involves death which is why I’d accept the need to prevent against a mistake made on impulse but this doesn’t mean every suicide is a mistake. But I do see suicide as an acceptable and rational response to too much misery. Extreme suffering, be it physical or psychological pain, can be escaped from if it’s in the present or the future.
That’s why people choose suicide. Suicidal individuals have faced a pain which is to much for them to endure or one they will face in the future.
Suicide pain is by definition very severe because it causes someone to choose suicide and this includes psychological or life pain. It’s so easy to dismiss the validity of severe emotional suffering because of the meanings which the mental illness fallacy casts upon those it calls depressed.
What I’m trying to explain is the trust which an individual deserves when they want to die. Whatever pain they’re suffering and for whatever reason it is always extreme pain when it makes the individual suicidal. I trust in this much more than I trust in anything coming out of the psychiatric profession because I’ve experienced it.
The first time I wanted to die there was a confluence of factors which made me want to die. One of them was a relationship breakup. I fell in love then the relationship ended and I was decimated inside. It’s easy to dismiss this reason for suicide as irrational or illegitimate because most people don’t suffer what I suffer when I lose someone I love from my life. But I feel the suffering intensely. It took me a while to get over it but I fell in love again and when the relationship broke up I suffered even more and for longer than the first time. I wish I’d died the first time because a life without love is as impossible to endure as the years of suicide pain I feel when the person I loved is no longer in my life.
To escape the pain of love lost is a good enough reason to die for me because I’ve felt it and it is awful. It helps me trust other suicidal individuals. The things which make them want to die are undoubtedly different from my reasons but irrespective of the reason the suffering is always extreme when suicide becomes a good solution. People who want to escape what is beyond their threshold of pain then suicide provides the protection from harm that nothing else can.
When you find yourself suffering more than you can handle then you’ll want to die. You might act on impulse or you might spend some time thinking about it. The decision might be the wrong one or the right one but it’s a decision you will make if you suffer too much or fear suffering too much.
Can you empathise yet with a suicidal individual? If you can then you’d respect the decision but if you can’t then it’s easy to try and stop all suicidal individuals from succeeding. You can take away the liberty of a sick mind but not from a free man.
Perhaps there should be a level of protection against an impulsive suicidal act but that’s not the objective of suicide prevention surveillance of personal data. The aim there lacks empathy and respect for personal liberty. Suicide surveillance aims to prevent all suicides and so makes things worse.
If a suicidal individual understands their decision then they should be free to carry it out. I believe they should be granted an assisted suicide.
You might not want me to die. That’s a natural response too. But I don’t want to suffer anymore. If I die then the people who care for me will grieve but I’m sure they’d put the end of my suffering above the prevention of theirs.
The key is to see suicide as rational and trust that the pain is severe. Suicide is ultimately a personal choice. Cultural values haven’t caught up yet but they will then assisted suicide will be legalised. Already there’s a few countries which are leading the way. Till then the folks at Google, Facebook, Apple and the other technology companies need to find their heart and stop the blanket anti suicide policies they have in place.
Stop the persecution. Understand and trust that the suffering which causes suicidal feelings is severe. Don’t make things worse for those who have already suffered too much. Respect the liberty of free men even if you don’t want us to die.
And don’t trust the fallacy of mental health. This system would do anything to prevent a suicidal individual from succeeding but never attempted to even think about how to prevent suicidal feelings from happening. Worse still, the system is based on a lie. If mental illness was a real thing then homosexuality would still be a mental illness and personal private data would be used to persecute homosexuals.