“Suicide” is one of those words that feels jarring to write, to see written, to say. The fact that the word has been in the news so much recently following the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain hasn’t lessened its impact. Just a week ago, The Washington Times reported that The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line saw surges in traffic following these high-profile deaths, shortly after a CDC study was released detailing skyrocketing suicide rates in all 50 states.
What can be done about the rash of suicides, if anything? One of the first things Christians can do is to combat some of the misconceptions about suicide that exist in the public and within the Church.
THE CAUSES OF SUICIDE ARE WELL UNDERSTOOD.
What’s confounding researchers about the suicide epidemic is that there are so many unknown factors. The causes of suicide, for instance, aren’t easy to pinpoint. Major psychiatric illnesses are often risk factors, including depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Genetics or a family history of suicide also seem to be indicators, as do aging, physical health, and lower socioeconomic status. Suicide also suffers from a “social contagion” component; that is, it seems to be contagious. This dynamic might explain why suicide is so prevalent among Native American populations. In other words, death by suicide is extremely hard to characterize as “being caused by” a single known factor.
In spite of prevention efforts, suicide has become the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, increasing alongside Alzheimer’s disease and drug overdoses related to the opioid epidemic. It’s the third-leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 25.
SUICIDE IS SOLELY A MENTAL HEALTH ISSUE.
While mental illness may play a role in suicide, we don’t currently know what that role is—and it’s far from being the only factor to consider when looking at suicide deaths. Most people who suffer from depression do not commit suicide. And according to the CDC, 54 percent of people who committed suicide in a recent study had no diagnosed mental health condition.
This doesn’t mean that mental health wasn’t a contributor, but that other causes—such as relationship and financial troubles, substance abuse (particularly alcohol abuse), and even low levels of job satisfaction—must be addressed. It’s also important to note that a person can have suicidal ideations without depression, and vice-versa. While suicide has been linked to mood disorders, the other factors that seem to contribute to it make it difficult to pinpoint the reasons outside of an individual basis.
CHRISTIANS DON’T STRUGGLE WITH SUICIDE.
Christians are not immune to the suicide epidemic. As comforting as it may be to think that one’s belief in Christ offers protection from suicide, the truth is that the circumstances that lead to suicide aren’t ameliorated simply by the facts of faith. Churchgoing individuals seem likely to contemplate suicide for the same reasons the unchurched do.
The Bible mentions several instances of suicide, usually by wicked men such as King Saul and Judas Iscariot. However, the seven suicides recorded in Scripture also include Samson, who is regarded as faithful to God in Hebrews 11. Furthermore, From the Psalms through the prophets, we see instances of faithful Christians who, in the depths of their despair, wished they could be dead. Satan even tempted Christ with suicide during his 40 days in the desert, as referenced in Matthew 4:5-6. To suggest that “real Christians” cannot or must not struggle with suicide flies in the face of the Word.
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Source: Relevant Magazine