Language is a virus

  Jonathan Thompson's use of the phrase "self-murder"is ill-advised, and "crazy"(as used by both Thompson and Ray Ring) arguably is, too, in this context, in particular as a major heading on the front page (HCN, 3/31/08). Yet more telling, however, is Thompson's - and to a degree (and surprisingly) Ring's - apparent ignorance of how mental illness and even just serious depression outside of mental illness actually work. Mental illness itself almost always, perhaps always, has a physical base. We divide illnesses into mental/physical under the false Cartesian dichotomy and under thousands of years of cultural pressure and ignorance and in large part because of insurance and medical corporations and their influence. There is no mind-body chasm. In fact, there's not even a thin crack.

There are, indeed, suicides of absolute will, where neither "mental"illness itself nor serious depressions that may or may not qualify as "mental"conditions are the factors: Buddhist monks dousing themselves and lighting up in protest, hunger strikers and suicide bombers. And there is little doubt that some suicides are "self-murder."But most suicides are indeed people in great pain, physical, "mental"or emotional. And many of them, contrary to what Thompson apparently believes, are impulsive, and most that are planned out are planned out while the people aren't thinking clearly, which therefore hardly qualifies it for "self-murder."Willful intent and a reasonable amount of self-possession need to be present for that.

As father of a bipolar son and brother-in-law of a seriously troubled woman who has been threatening suicide, I loudly applaud HCN's publication of this article and for drawing attention to the issue(s). I just wish the diction had been handled a bit more sensitively, particularly in the opening editorial.

Nial McCruimmen
Spearfish, South Dakota