"We’ve made some progress in understanding mental illnesses over the past few decades, and even come up with drugs to help ameliorate their effects. But we have not made any headway against suicide.
. . . .
According to the World Health Organization, global suicide rates have increased by 60 percent over the past 45 years. The increase in this country is nothing like that, but between 1999 and 2010, the suicide rate among Americans between 35 and 64 rose by 28 percent. More people die by suicide than by auto accidents."
Regarding persons who reject suicide, Brooks concludes:
"That person can commit to live to redeem past mistakes. That person can show that we are not completely self-determining creatures, and do not have the right to choose when we end our participation in the common project of life.
The blackness of the suicidal situation makes these rejoinders stand out in stark relief. And, as our friend Nietzsche observed, he who has a why to live for can withstand any how."
In response, I would refer David to his own July New York Times op-ed entitled "Men on the Threshold" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/16/opinion/brooks-men-on-the-threshold.html), in which he noted a steady decline in male labor force participation. Brooks wrote at the time:
"In 1954, 96 percent of American men between 25 and 54 years old worked. Today, 80 percent do. One-fifth of men in their prime working ages are out of the labor force.
. . . .
The definitive explanation for this catastrophe has yet to be written. Some of the problem clearly has to do with changes in family structure. Work by David Autor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests that men raised in fatherless homes, without as many immediate masculine role models, do worse in the labor force. Some of the problem probably has to do with a mismatch between boy culture and school culture, especially in the early years.
But, surely, there has been some ineffable shift in the definition of dignity. Many men were raised with a certain image of male dignity, which emphasized autonomy, reticence, ruggedness, invulnerability and the competitive virtues. Now, thanks to a communications economy, they find themselves in a world that values expressiveness, interpersonal ease, vulnerability and the cooperative virtues.
Surely, part of the situation is that many men simply do not want to put themselves in positions they find humiliating. A high school student doesn’t want to persist in a school where he feels looked down on. A guy in his 50s doesn’t want to find work in a place where he’ll be told what to do by savvy young things."
So the next time I encounter a desperate unemployed man in his 50s contemplating suicide, I should read to him from "our friend Nietzche"? Why am I so uncertain that this will change his mind?