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Every 40 Seconds, Suicide Takes a Life

World Health Organization Releases New Study, as Lighthouse Network’s Dr. Karl Benzio Reflects on Suicide Prevention Week

The World Health Organization (WHO) released the results of a new study last week, which found that someone worldwide dies as a result of suicide every 40 seconds.

According to the WHO research, more than 800,000 people kill themselves every year, with the majority of suicides occurring in low- and middle-income countries. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death in 15- to 29-year-olds globally.

In the U.S. in 2013, according to the CDC’s latest report, the most recent statistics available, 41,149 people died as a result of suicide—the 10th leading cause of death in America. WHO shared its findings in preparation for Suicide Prevention Week, September 8-14; September 10 is also World Suicide Prevention Day.

Sadly, I believe those number of suicides are much higher when we take into consideration the dramatic under-reporting of suicide and the “passive suicides.”

I traveled to Mississippi to provide Hurricane Katrina relief services and frequently heard stories of people who were overwhelmed. They didn’t necessarily want to kill themselves, but they gave up on life, stopped taking life-saving medications and died. The cause of death for these passive suicides is ruled as a result of heart disease, cancer, diabetes or whatever life-threatening illness the meds were stopping.

Additionally, suicides can be extremely underreported for a variety of reasons: mistakes by the coroner, the stigma associated with suicide, the uncertainty of whether accidents and overdoses were intentional, doubts with life insurance policies, and family embarrassment. I had one patient whose brother was depressed and died at age 53. The coroner wrote “natural causes” on the death certificate when most of the family thought it was a suicide.

When we take these passive suicides and underreported suicides into account, most believe the actual number is about 10-15 times the reported amount. Or up to 410,000 – 615,000 Americans may have died in 2013 as a result of suicide, easily making it the second-leading cause of death behind heart disease. For the U.S, that’s a suicide every 50 seconds. For the world that estimate would be 8 – 12 Million suicides per year, or one every 2.8 seconds.

A will to live, a resiliency to endure and the hope that peace is near and an answer is in sight are hard to come by for many. Standing firm on the spiritual foundation of God and the application of His promises and instruction is both preventative and therapeutic when the wounds of the spiritual war are deep or when the pain is escalating or chronic. Experiencing suicidal tendencies is treatable, but requires a three-pronged treatment approach involving the spirit, mind and body, as well as recognition of an important and necessary ongoing growth and transformation process.

When someone comes to me and says they want to die, I reframe it for them into, ‘You are telling me you don’t want to live that life, live in that pain anymore. You want the pain to end.’ I then agree with them, and state that if they are really willing to end their life, before they turn to a permanent solution to end the pain, let’s try some other options to strip off the old life and clothe yourself with the new one, in which peace, love and forgiveness are readily available. Then we look at interventions or help in all three spheres—spirit, mind and body—to transition to a new life with less pain and more potential.

Those who are concerned about a friend or loved one and their struggles with depression, suicide, drugs, alcohol or life-interfering or -endangering behaviors should reach out for help through a trusted Behavioral Health specialist, their pastor, or local hospital. The most effective help will incorporate God into the healing process, because without Him, no amount of rehab, treatment or medication can bring true hope, deep healing and lasting life transformation.

karl-benzio-1Dr. Karl Benzio MD, Christian Psychiatrist, writer, speaker, media guest expert, social issue activist, and the founder and clinical director of Lighthouse Network. Benzio brings scientific expertise and biblical principles together to examine common daily struggles and help people successfully navigate life’s storms. His experiences include teaching pastors, ministry leaders and students about counseling, leadership, parenting, marriage, and conflict resolution skills in traumatized areas like Uganda, Kenya and post-Hussein Iraq. He is currently a member of Focus on the Family’s Physicians Resource Council, the Pennsylvania Director of the American Academy of Medical Ethics, and serves on many other social policy task forces. His specialties include adolescents, addictions, decision-making and infusing spirituality into treatment. Benzio shares psycho-spiritual insights via his Stepping Stones daily devotional, on his one-minute daily radio feature “Life Change with Dr. Karl,” on 425 Christian radio stations and on iDisciple.org.

Email: KBenzio@LighthouseNetwork.org

Twitter: @drkarlb