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    Suicide solution

    This story on The Onion isn’t quite a classic–some of the adjective-choked phrasing makes it a little too clear the writer’s trying to be funny, when a topic such as this requires that earnest Sam-the-Eagle deadpan. But the collision between two therapeutic impulses is still hilarious:

    A report published Monday in The New England Journal of Medicine warns that the nation’s obesity epidemic has reached a new level of crisis, with many overweight Americans’ increased girth rendering them physically unable to end their own, fat lives.

    “We’ve known for some time that obesity can cause heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and other potentially life-threatening illnesses,” said report author Dr. Marjorie Reese, director of UCLA’s Obesity Pathology Clinic. “But the fact that obesity impedes suicide is truly troubling. It appears that the more reason people have to die, the less capable they are of doing so. They are literally trapped in their grotesque, blubbery bodies.”

    Given all the propaganda about how fat people are unidisciplined and ignorant and short-lived and…for the love of Pete, how many times do we have to tell you to put down that Big Mac and eat a fistful of carrot sticks?!–given all that, it almost makes sense that some actual “public-health” scold would point out the inability to off yourself as yet another risk of obesity, if only to score points by adding to the list.

    By contrast, there’s no jest involved in Japan’s latest got-a-problem-get-a-program initiative to lower the suicide rate:

    The measures call for comprehensive efforts, including stepping up measures to tackle unemployment and bankruptcy, as well as early detection and treatment of depression.

    The measures include mental health support services such as counseling at workplaces, a network of community psychiatrists, and public campaigns to raise awareness of the problem and to reduce prejudice against mental illnesses.

    They also call for more support for suicide survivors and victims’ families. Students and the elderly were the two groups that had the fastest-growing suicide rates.

    Most of the measures are to be funded by the government, though the Cabinet did not release figures on how much money was available.

    Nearly half of those who committed suicide last year were unemployed, the police said in their report published Thursday.

    Given its track record, I’m not sure I’m going to put much faith in the federal government’s ability to tackle unemployment and bankruptcy. The support programs and things don’t sound like a bad idea; the Japanese are very, very slowly coming to accept the idea that professional counseling is a way for respectable people to deal with intractable emotional problems. It’s going to be difficult for health care providers to address the big acculturation problem, though: Japanese workers are taught to invest most of their adult identity into their jobs, but they aren’t taught to view skills and experience as assets that would transferrable from workplace to workplace. A lot of people, even sixteen years after the Bubble burst, simply have no idea what to do when they become unemployed. That’s especially true of the middle-aged; the free-lancing phenomenon is probably not as common among youths as it’s hyped up to be, but I imagine that most young people at least have a sense of how to be resourceful in patching together a living from temp work as they plot their next move.

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