A disturbing headline about Canadian assisted suicide laws regarding the mentally ill caught my attention recently. As I read the article, the first line chilled me: “Medical assistance in dying (MAID) has been available in Canada since 2016 and is set to expand in March 2023, extending eligibility to those with a mental illness.”
It goes on to say that the new bill would allow people to apply for medical aid in dying “solely on the basis of a mental disorder.”
Dying with Dignity Canada called the signing of the bill “a momentous day for end-of-life rights in Canada.”
A momentous day, indeed.
When a government deems it appropriate to care for people by allowing them to take their own lives, we have a serious problem.
Mental illness is a terrible thing. According to Canadian statistics, over five million people seek mental health services each year, and about one in three Canadians will be affected by mental illness every year. The statistic is higher in the US, where about one in five has a diagnosed mental illness. That’s 20% of our population. And with the COVID pandemic and lockdowns, we have seen an increase in mental health problems throughout our country.
Chances are, someone you know is suffering from some type of mental illness. This is not a crisis to take lightly.
It’s our job as Catholic Christians to help these people, not to make them feel like failures or like burdens so that they want to end their lives. Yes, this law is Canadian and doesn’t extend to America, but the mentality is pervasive—and though laws do not cross borders, ideologies do.
We should all feel outraged by this law. No one should ever feel as if their life is not worth living. Life is a gift. But we are not naïve enough to think that life is full of rainbows and sunshine. Life can be incredibly difficult. We’ve all had days or weeks or maybe even months when we just couldn’t seem to do anything right, when we began losing hope, when we didn’t seem to have any friends, or when we felt so lonely it was almost unbearable. But we put one foot forward, we persevered, we prayed, we begged God for help, and we eventually created a new chapter in our lives. But this isn’t always the case, especially for those with mental illness. Sometimes they need the help of mental health professionals or meds to get to a place where they can just get out of bed in the morning.
This is why we must pay attention to those around us. We must look at their needs and offer to help them. Sometimes we can do nothing but listen or even just sit. But even by sitting with them, we are giving them the most important message we can: You matter to me.
And when people know they matter, they will be less likely to want to take advantage of assisted suicide laws.
We live in a society that often fails to think about how others react and feel about situations. We spend time immersed in online games, in TV, and on our phones, and we sometimes neglect the people around us. We choose to spend our time laughing at Tik Tok or funny videos rather than having a conversation with a friend, a family member, or someone at work.
We must realize that when people hurt, they tend to suffer silently. They withdraw into themselves. Those with anxiety and depression sink deeper and deeper into the belief that they are worth nothing, that they don’t matter to others, and that the world would be “better off” without them in it.
Once they start this line of thinking, what do they do? They search the Internet, looking for some type of validation one way or the other. They want someone to love and care for them, or they want a way out.
Then along comes laws like the one in Canada that tell people that it’s okay to feel so despondent that you want to take your own life: “Here, we’ll make it easy. The world will be better off without you. You don’t matter.”
It’s evil, and it gives people a free pass from taking care of one another.
The only way that we can stop the insidiousness of assisted suicide laws is to speak out against them and to ensure that our friends, family, and neighbors know that we value them.
Christ told us that whatever we do to others, we also do to Him. Let us remember this, especially as we head into the holidays. The world is full of people who are hurting. It is our job to help them through the pain, not to help them extinguish their lives.
This article first appeared in the Catholic World Report at catholicworldreport.com/2022/11/01/assisted-suicide-for-the-mentally-ill-comes-to-canada.