Plagued by 'chronic suicide'


Published: Monday, January 29, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 29, 2007 at 12:33 a.m.
I was teaching a wellness education course the other day in prison when I came up with what I think may be a new term to include in the wonderful American language or lexicon. I call it "Chronic Suicide."
What I was trying to teach to the "learners," or inmate students, was the concept of prevention of disease and disability and how so many people don't make sufficient effort to protect themselves.
We then spoke about the things that people could immediately do that would positively impact their health.
Chronic suicide seemed to sum up very appropriately what most Americans do. It essentially is the intentional misuse, abuse, or nonuse of the human body over time so that the eventual outcome is an early death.
The inmate learners really liked the term because they, too, understood immediately its meaning and significance. I wrote the term down in my notes.
Are many of us indeed committing chronic suicide? I strongly believe that the answer is yes, and most studies looking at large populations, especially in the United States, would tend to agree.
Most of us do not exercise at least three times per week. Many of us overeat and/or eat the wrong foods. Lots of us misuse or abuse both legal and illegal drugs, and the list of negative behaviors goes on an on.
And the result? We get ill. We develop heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, bad backs, and a host of other maladies that for the most part may well be preventable.
In our nation, the intentional taking of one's life or the assistance of another in taking one's life is illegal. Yet, many of us stand by and watch as those around us, people we care for and love, commit their own slow form of suicide.
It is well past time that we as a nation, as a community of people, make more efforts to get people of all ages into healthier lifestyles.
The financial, emotional, physical and societal benefits are huge if we do. To use a military analogy (since we are currently involved in a war) we are presently using a platoon to help people to help themselves to better health.
Perhaps we need an entire army to get the job done.
Let's not help our fellow citizens to commit chronic suicide. Let's help them live a long, healthy and happy life. That is truly the mark of a civilized nation.
Jonathan Coron is a wellness education specialist with the Florida Department of Corrections. He lives in Gainesville.

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