Statement of Solidarity in Observance of Suicide Prevention Month

Affirming the Importance to People with Disabilities of Access to Services, Real Choices, and Self-Determination
September is suicide prevention month, and during its observance, we express our sincere sorrow that any human ever experiences a level of despair or hopelessness that results in a choice to end one’s own life.
The concern of the disability, military and veterans, and aging communities in suicide prevention is understandable in view of research regarding rates and reasons, which consistently show these groups at increased risk. According to several studies, the biggest difference between notes of those who died as a result of suicide attempts and those who attempted it but survived was a far greater emphasis in the notes of those who died as a result of their attempts on the belief that they were a burden on other people and society at large.[1] Research also shows that isolation or removal of a person from his or her social group creates increased risk for suicide, and that people experiencing depression – a psychiatric disability – have a risk factor 25 times greater than that of the general population.[2]
As a community of more than 58 million Americans with disabilities of all races, ethnicities, ages, sexual orientations, and genders/gender identities  — including veterans with disabilities and the aging community with acquired disabilities – we have a long history of receiving messages from society that we are a burden on account of our health care needs; our difficulty transitioning back into society; or faulty assumptions about the quality of our lives. Far from harmless opinion, these views – often tantamount to “better dead than disabled” – are an insidious threat to our civil rights and to decisions about allocations of public funds.
As long as the majority of Americans with disabilities continue to live in poverty and unnecessary isolation, without access to appropriate mental health care and comprehensive, fully-funded and operational systems of assistive living services, our alarming and distressing rates of suicide, including assisted suicide, will go unchecked. We find this unacceptable, and in recognition of the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we echo the words of the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency, when it wrote, “Society should not be ready to give up on the lives of its citizens with disabilities until it has made real and persistent efforts to give these citizens a fair and equal chance to achieve a meaningful life.”[3]
Underpinning and enshrined within major American disability civil rights laws is the belief that “disability is a natural part of the human experience.”[4] The immutability of disability forms the basis of the protections these laws confer, and yet, laws alone, absent abiding commitments from all quarters of society, cannot create the type of societal change that together we are fighting to achieve.
We on this occasion of observing Suicide Prevention Month:
  • Recognize that people with disabilities, including veterans with disabilities and the aging population, are among society’s most likely to end their lives and to experience pressure to end their lives.
  • Recognize that other factors such as race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity/expression may further compound on and contribute to risk factors relating to suicide.
  • Affirm the statement in Article 10 of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which states that “every human being has the inherent right to life” and pledge to work together to “ensure its effective enjoyment by persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.”
  • Believe disability is a natural part of the human experience and a form of human diversity, and we reject the notion that disability is a fate worse than death.
  • Believe dignity is innate in every life and eschew the notion that dignity can only be achieved or reclaimed by extinguishing life.
We encourage leaders from across the country to join us in calling out and rejecting policies and practices that exclude, isolate, and discriminate against people with disabilities that so often encourage self-inflicted or assisted premature deaths; and instead, work together toward the full participation and self-determination of all people with disabilities as equally-valued members of our beautiful and diverse human family.

Not Dead Yet

ADAPT of Texas
American Association of People with Disabilities
Associated Students Inc.
Association of Disabled Women
Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living
Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF)
Disability Rights International
Ehlers-Danlos Network Australasia
Green Think Tank for the Disability Community
National Council on Independent Living
National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities
New York Association on Independent Living
NMD United Inc.
Not Dead Yet Montana
Parent to Parent USA
Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies
Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies
Potter County Yellow Ribbon
Road to Freedom Bus Tour
Sibling Leadership Network
United Spinal Association
Zach Baldwin
Gregg Beratan
Janine Bertram
Fallon Binns
Jennifer Border
Kathy Brill
Allison Butler
Carolyn Clark
Diane Coleman
Kelvin Chung
Roger Deason
Kathleen Downes
Sarah Dresser
Robin Eames
Eddie Ellis
Horacio Esparza
Dominick Evans
Heather Gautier
Carol Gilster
Tom Gratis-Roh
Irina Greenman
Jason Harris
Tania Harris
Cy Harvey
Linda Hughes
Brittany Hepler
Marsha Katz
Angela Kennedy
Christiana Koch
Rayna Lamb
Jean-Marie Lawrence
Quin Lawrence
Selina Lee
John Leete
Cara Liebowitz
Andrew Little
Ama Love
Ayo Maat
Larissa MacFarlane
Karen McCulloh
Shonda McLaughlin
Barb Mead
Sheila Northrop
Lydia Nunez Landry
Kayla Olden
Tom Olin
Jennifer Pickner
Rebecca Raphael
Joanna Rennix
Marcie Roth
Kendra Scalia
Mik Scarlet
Dawn Schelthelm
Tracey Steele-John
Paul Timmons
Claire Vinten
Mike Volkman
Kristin Walters
Liz Weaver
Andrea Winters
Emily Wolinsky

[1] Joiner, T. E., Pettit, J. W., Walker, R. L., Voelz, Z. R., Cruz, J., Rudd, M. D., & Lester, D. (2002). Perceived burdensomeness and suicidality: Two studies on the suicide notes of those attempting and those completing suicide. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology21(5), 531-545.

[2] W. Breitbart, “Cancer Pain and Suicide,” in Advances in Pain Research and Therapy, ed. K. M. Foley et al., vol (New York: Raven Press, 1990), 399-412.

[3] National Council on Disability, “Assisted Suicide: A Disability Perspective Position Paper” (1997).

[4] As expressed in the congressional findings of the U.S. Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act, 42 U.S.C.A. §15001 (2000), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C.A. §1400, and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C.A. §701.

5 thoughts on “Statement of Solidarity in Observance of Suicide Prevention Month

  1. Queensland Advocacy Inc is an independent community systems and legal advocacy organisation that works to promote protect and defend the rights and lives and fundamental needs of vulnerable people with disability.
    QAI deems that all humans are equally important, unique and of intrinsic value and that all people should be seen and valued, first and foremost, as a whole person.

    We stand with allies across our nation and the world in supporting this statement and the prevention and protection against deathmaking

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