When it comes to America’s suicide epidemic, we really are our brothers’ keepers.
Today I want to speak with you about something that’s deadly serious—America’s suicide epidemic. If you think this doesn’t apply to you and you can just go on with your day, please hear me out. And for those of you who have thought about ending your own life—or you know someone who has—hang on, because there is hope.
First, the horror. According to the New York Times, the annual suicide rate in the U.S. surged by 24 percent between 1999 and 2014, giving us our highest suicide rate in 28 years. And it’s only getting worse. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that the number of suicides rose from almost 43,000 in 2014 to just about 45,000 in 2016. Meanwhile, the American Center for Suicide Prevention says that suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in 2014, with an average of 121 “successful” suicides every day. An amazing 8.3 million American adults reported having suicidal thoughts in the last year.
My friend Joni Eareckson Tada, the author of the newly updated book, “When Is It Right to Die?” says loneliness is a key contributor to America’s suicide epidemic for many people—and that’s an issue all believers in Jesus Christ can address.
Once, as Joni writes in a piece for Christianity Today, she was addressing a class of high-schoolers about euthanasia, suicide, and the students’ responsibilities. One young man described how his mom was getting demoralized by caring for his sister, who had developmental delays. He said society should “do something.” Then Joni looked at him from her wheelchair and said, “How have you helped alleviate the burden? … Maybe your mom wouldn’t be so demoralized, maybe she wouldn’t feel so stressed or burdened, if you rolled your sleeves up a little higher to help.” The student chuckled and said, “I see your point.”
And that point is that suicide is everyone’s business. Joni says that “the sick and the well are inextricably connected in community. Those on the margins—the depressed, the ill, and the dying—need us. But the converse is also true: We need them, too.”
How so? What Joni calls “the gutsy choice to face suffering head-on”—instead of giving up—“forces others…to sit up and take notice . . . When people observe perseverance, endurance, and courage, their moral fiber”—and society’s moral fiber—“is reinforced.”
So however we feel, no matter how bleak our circumstances—and they might seem very dark indeed—thank God, we don’t have to go it alone. And as members of Christ’s body, we are needed. We can share one another’s burdens and sufferings—depression, terminal illness, bereavement, job loss, mental illness, or whatever.
We may need professional help, too, and if you need it, please seek it out. But also seek fellowship in Jesus. A dear friend of mine could tell you how important the prayers of his brothers and sisters in Christ were when he suffered through a major depressive episode just recently.
Of course, our ultimate hope is the Lord Jesus Christ, who “died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Cor. 5:15)
— by Eric Metaxas
Metaxas is the voice of Breakpoint, a radio commentary (www.breakpoint.org). Copyright© 2018 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.