Startling suicide epidemic facts:
- 39,518 people died of suicide in 2011 (most recent available stats; stats are for the U.S.).
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America.
- Suicide is under-reported, and therefore is 6 to 12 times more likely, due to the following factors: mistaken reporting by the coroner due to stigma, uncertainty of whether accidents and overdoses were intentional unintentional, questions about life insurance policies that may not cover suicide, and family embarrassment.
- Many suicides are due to people giving up and stopping their heart medications or other life-sustaining treatments because they want to die. The cause of death for these “passive suicides” is reported as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc.
- 360,000 suicides may have occurred when using the midpoint of 9-times under-reporting estimate, making suicide easily the SECOND LEADING CAUSE of death behind heart disease.
- A completed suicide occurs every 90 seconds.
The country observes the second week of September as Suicide Prevention Week, and September is National Recovery Month. Unfortunately, addictions are often part of the recipe leading to suicide. Robin Williams’ tragic death has shocked and saddened many. But hopefully we can perform an autopsy on the legendary comedic actor to learn some practical application points to prevent future permanent and disastrous actions.
Rather than discussing common suicide risk factors (mental health or addiction issues, past suicide attempts, family history of suicide, severe medical issues, recent loss, significant stressors), I will focus here on the less-often discussed but, I believe, more vitally important aspects.
- Having everything isn’t just about material possessions. Many with great riches feel empty and bankrupt. Wealth is determined by your spiritual and psychological portfolio. Are you connected to God? Do you feel His love and acceptance? Do you understand your purpose? Are peace, joy and thankfulness a regular part of your days and life? Solomon had great wealth and means to find happiness and he concluded at the end of Ecclesiastes that all is empty and worthless without God.
- Those who eventually commit suicide may have tried many ways and times to end their pain. Robin Williams attempted many methods: making others laugh, amassing great wealth, taking care of his family, using cocaine and alcohol, attending rehab and marrying several times. If everyone had the option to end the pain and live, they would choose it. Unfortunately, after many attempts to end their extreme pain, the only option they see is death.
- The spiritual plays a big part in healing or hurting. Every person has hurts and wounds inside. Only our Creator knows what we need and has the power to fully heal. Connecting to and understanding God’s guidance and prescription allows quadriplegics to embrace life and be fulfilled while the able-bodied rich can feel incompetent and lonely.
- Depression is a chronic issue requiring a spirit, mind and body integration approach. Sadness is a temporary reaction to a stressor to let you know something is not right. Depression, on the other hand, is an ongoing struggle with a core problem of not seeing self and life through clear lenses. Ours lenses don’t get cleaned overnight; rather, it’s an ongoing process of incorporating the Bible’s truths to develop eyes that really see the truth, then the truth can set us free. Taking a truly integrated BioPsychoSpiritual approach is essential to guide our daily decision-making with spiritual truths thus renewing (rewiring) our brain chemistry!
- Substance use is a poor coping skill. Although substances, as well as any addiction (work, exercise, food, productivity, control, power, attention), bring some acute relief or escape, they interfere with our development of healthy coping skills to deal with what life brings us. Our addictions also bring on consequences that isolate us even more and create a bigger hole that seems impossible to get out of. Relying on the created and not the Creator will not end well.
- Those who commit suicide often feel like a burden, rather than being selfish. Outsiders often view suicide as a selfish act, but when dissecting the situation, the individual really did have their loved ones’ best interests as a priority. The suicidal person always feels that everyone would be much better off without them around because of the failure they have experienced and how they contaminate everyone around them.
- Seeds are planted in childhood. Robin Williams grew up shy, lonely and afraid of his father. He stated he had an “acute fear of abandonment” and a “Love-Me Syndrome.” We all have wounds and baggage from our imperfect childhoods. Honest self-reflection and self-assessment is a necessary, ongoing process for us to uncover the misinformation and tapes we have in our head and replace them with truth. We must then develop healthy skills to lead a victorious and abundant life, delivering psychological, relational and spiritual maturity.
- We can agree with the general suicide message that “I don’t want to live this way anymore,” so let’s look at a new option of trying Jesus and trusting the teachings of the Bible and using them in everyday life situations. A suicidal person has nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying this option.
- Help is available, but it’s an ongoing process. As we’ve explored, many opportunities for hope and help are available, but they don’t transform us 100% immediately. A process is necessary, but much enjoyment comes from the process as well as the destination. Finding the right people to communicate compassion and hope, then to teach the right perspective and skills, will guide anyone from darkness to light and bondage to freedom, heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free.