Understanding the Causes of the Opioid/Suicide Epidemic and Its Cures (Part I)
Part I: The Chain Reaction of Cultural Causes
We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for despair and hopelessness is Love. There are many in the world dying for a piece of bread, but there are many more who are dying for a little Love. The poverty in the West is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There is a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.
-St. Mother Teresa
In 2017, US life expectancy dropped for the third straight year due to drug fatalities and individuals taking their own lives. If one considers that many overdoses are suicides, then we are witnessing a pandemic of the acute despair and self-murder of Americans.
Anyone who feels truly loved, cared for, not alone, economically secure, with a sense of accomplishment, and seeing a future for themselves, is not likely to become substance abuse dependent or take their own life. In addition, the reassurance, consolation, and hope that is provided by the knowledge of a Higher Power of love, along with a spiritual injunction against suicide, is a powerful assist for someone tempted to make the tragic mistake of ending their own existence in a moment of desperation, isolation, and confusion.
Why have we adopted an anti-God, anti-love, anti-family, anti-child, anti-morality, usurious, and non-benevolent culture that refuses to address the needs of the soul? Why have we acquiesced to the financial and other disasters that result from these malevolencies? Who benefits?
Not the “unwashed millions” who are not part of the one-percent of “one-percenters” insulated by layers of money like a myelin sheath around a nerve transmitter.
It started in the early 1960s when President Eisenhower warned us about the dangers of the military industrial complex, followed by the assassinations of Medger Evers, President John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy all within five years. This rapid-fire onslaught of murders caused a national mental fracture, and so it comes as no surprise that this era also witnessed the rise of the “drug culture.”
At the exact same time, we were denied one of the most powerful means of healing a shattered public psyche: the shared spiritual assent that provides solace, comfort, and resilience and is a means to cohesion, wholeness, and restoration. And so, the fragmentation commenced.
For a society, the collective belief in a supreme being of goodness unites its people with a sense of support and validation and a reason to live, because it encompasses the exhilarating conviction that good is there, we can attain it, and it will endow us. Without a communal aspiration to something greater than ourselves, a people become defeated, reduced to a state of demoralization, desensitization, disunity, disorientation, and disenfranchisement. They will accede to this without their even realizing it. They will have been bullied into and blamed for their own demise.
In turning our backs on the root, life-giving doctrine of our avowed belief in the Creator, we have sown in the wind of political, social, economic, moral, and spiritual corruption, and we are reaping the whirlwind.
We have a decimated middle class, absent stay-at-home parents (as both mother and father must now work outside the home to make ends meet), and struggling single mothers who do a heroic job, but desperately need our assistance. We are nearly devoid of the supportive extended families of yore. Today, the only “family value” is making money, attempting to fill the spiritual void with celebrity worship, and the accumulation of designer stuff and status activities — that the average person cannot afford. At the same time, we have ballooning student debt that constitutes a modern-day indentured servitude, with the opportunity for higher education restricted to the super-wealthy. So, most people must run faster and more deftly on the ruthless wheel, lest its spokes impale them.
In a world where time is money and money is God, there are no stress-free minutes in the day for the responsible nurturing, guidance, attention to, and safeguarding of children. Nor does this new dogma (of the monetization of all things) allow parents to even think of engaging in the human intangibles that conscientious parenthood demands. And this is occurring notwithstanding that children desperately need to internalize the self-love and the strong, genuine personal identity that are only formed by a solid, loving parent-child connection — the surest shield against drug addiction and severe depression.
So today, feeling the human need to bond, young people are forced to latch onto the only objects available, their equally suffering peers. And these similarly distraught companions are likewise being “mentored” by popular entertainers (pushing the toxic values they are paid to purvey), as well as poisonous social media where young women are urged to send sexually exploitative pictures, and teens engage in Tide POD challenges. And their internet preoccupation is causing our children to fail to be able to develop normal social cues, which chips away at their ability to be compassionate toward others or toward themselves.
We are surrounded by images of violence, horror, ruthlessness, lust and gratuitous sexuality, depredation, darkness, and ugliness. We live in a world where innocence is no longer protected but has been butchered.
Young people afflicted with drug addiction and mental distress are felled by this betrayal of innocence. And the anguish and sense of complete hopelessness this causes results in an almost terminal discouragement. Why bother trying to achieve a wholesome and a good life? Just allow oneself to drown.
In June 2016, psychiatrist Dr. Carl Bell, clinical professor at the University of Illinois, observed that until recently, he had not seen children younger than 13 who were suicidal or severely depressed. “I don’t know what happened, but now I see it all the time.”
We have become the victims of a socio-political-economic chain reaction:
I. The crafted and coerced abandonment of our founding belief in love and God.
II. A disregard for human values, which were replaced with the inhuman values of murderous competition, wealth, power, and prestige, as being the only measures of a person.
III. An obsession with materialism, such that citizens no longer felt they could devote the time required to engage in the responsibilities of civic participation. Hence, we handed our power over to political lobbyists who represent the monied interests of those who hire them, and not the well-being of the common folk.
IV. A culture of corruption, of our government, and across all our institutions and systems (including mental health care/rehab), because when money is the measure of all things, people will do anything for it. So, we have had an alteration of our laws, tax structure, rules, regulations, international agreements, administrative and executive deals and orders in a way that did not benefit the concerns of the majority.
V. The depletion of the middle class, the destruction of the nuclear and extended family, and the failure to devotedly nurture, rear, and defend children with the time, attention, and dedication required. It also resulted in a lack of: (1) effective and affordable mental and medical health treatment, (2) curative community programs and viable neighborhood churches, (3) equal excellence of education for all, (4) accessible higher education, and (5) jobs and vocational training.
VI. Economic and personal tribulation, a want of hope, a starvation of love, a God-shaped hole in the soul, terrible loneliness, self-hatred and the griefs of the loss of both one’s original authentic self and of an affectionate and steadfast parent-child relationship, personal and societal traumatic wounding, and psychological jamming and splitting. Hence, people try to medicate their psychic agony and attempt to integrate themselves, by taking the only remedies that seem available to them — the fake love substitutes of addictive drugs, hedonism, and rampant consumerism — all of which result in further despair and death.
So, what do we do? The way out of this crisis is to take back our children, ourselves, our lives, our culture, and our country.
Our salvation comes by restoring love and spirituality on an individual, familial, community, educational, healthcare/government systems, societal and national leadership basis, and by adopting a soul-centered therapeutic model in which spirituality, altruistic love and psychodynamic treatment are synonymous.
Just being told “I love you and I am here for you”, or “God loves you and God is with you” is such a healing elixir for a person whose spirit is parched from the lack of this vital essence. At times, it can even mean the difference between life and death. We must feel with and for others, check on people on a regular basis to let them know that someone cares about them, reach out to them to alleviate their suffering and really help them in all the ways they need to be helped, and enable them to believe, experience, and hold onto the realization that they are accepted, loved, and not alone.
Disease is the absence of health; evil is the absence of good; and despair is the absence of the spirit of God who is love and the way to the living of a right and happy life.
We, all of us and our entire society, need to love and, in so doing, whatever we require on a material plane, for a blooming and beneficent life, will be achieved in abundance.
Parts 2 and 3 to Follow: “Vital Societal Reforms and Solutions” and “Individually Restorative Therapeutic Remedies”
Vivian Percy, Esq. is the author of Saving Jenny: How to Rescue Our Youth from America’s Opioid and Suicide Epidemic