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To the Editor,
In Ross Douthat’s article, “The Age of American Despair” from September 7th 2019, he encourages the idea that the “deaths of despair” crisis is the most pressing problem today. Douthat comments on CNN’s decision to run a program that educated Americans on the detriments and consequences of climate change, spending a better part of the article arguing reasons why these deaths of despair should be considered top of the to-do list. Although Douthat’s compassion for those who went through a death of despair is admirable, deaths of despair should not be America’s number one focus at the moment. He concludes that the cause of these deaths possibly is a combination of spiritual, economic, or political factors. The solution, Douthat claims, is a renewal of an existential meaning of life for society as a whole.
Douthat states that deaths of despair are classified as deaths from suicides, drug, and alcohol abuse. One problem with placing these deaths as top priority, is that like Douthat says, the cause of them is to be debated. How can there be a plan put in place to stop a problem that has no identifiable cause? While the direct causes of the deaths is one of the three mentioned ailments, in order to stop them, the cause of the ailments needs to be known. However, why people choose to drink, or do drugs, or commit suicide, is not information that victims or families of victims of these deaths always want to share. Therefore, it makes pin-pointing the true cause of these deaths hard to name, and thus, preventative measures to stop them hard to implement.
Tackling a problem with so many unknown variables will only lead to more questions and debacles with trying to fix it. Having no solution to this problem may also turn people away from wanting to help. Another problem with Douthat’s assertion is that addiction is a very hard battle to fight. It takes dedication and hard work to climb the mountain that is addiction. This can be very difficult for those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol or both, and do not want to get better. All efforts should not be devoted to those who are not looking to be helped.
There is hope that, one day, we can eradicate these deaths of despair however, we need more concrete ways of finding treatments for it. And in order to reduce the number of drug related deaths, it is going to take humanity hand in hand changing their lifestyle.