by Barbara Miller
No, not all people who try and/or succeed in committing suicide are mentally ill. Sometimes life’s struggles are just too overwhelming. Many experience a profound sense of hopelessness or loss, leading them to believe their lives will never get better—that their pain will never end.
In my case, many years ago, I felt hopeless and saw no way to happiness. I had graduated from college, was married, but living far from my native Ohio and everything and everyone familiar. I felt trapped and alone, but was thrilled to be the new mother of a beautiful baby. So I couldn’t understand why I was planning what I was planning. Thinking through possible methods of escape, however, I couldn’t come up with one that would ensure the safety of my daughter when I was gone.
In the end I chose to live because of the small life God had entrusted to me. I eventually called my obstetrician who referred me to a psychiatrist. Much later, my mother diagnosed “baby blues” (postpartum depression). The second time I experienced similar feelings was after the birth of my son 10 years later. But this time I had a compassionate pastor to call.
Experts believe most suicidal individuals do not want to die. They just want to end the pain they are experiencing.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
- Nearly 45,000 Americans die from suicide each year, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
- On average, there are 123 suicides a day.
- Firearms counted for 51 percent of all suicides in 2016.
- White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2016.
- The rate of suicide is highest in middle age, white men in particular.
- In 2016, the highest suicide rate (19.72) was among adults between 45 and 54 years of age.
- The second highest rate (18.98) occurred in those 85 years or older.
- Younger groups have had consistently lower suicide rates than middle-aged and older adults. In 2016, adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24 had a suicide rate of 13.15.
Experts believe most suicidal individuals do not want to die. They just want to end the pain they are experiencing. When suicidal behaviors are detected early, lives can be saved. Read the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s social message on suicide.
If you are aware that a loved one is at risk for suicide, contact a suicide crisis center, a crisis hotline, a family physician, a psychiatrist or your pastor. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255). The hotline provides access to trained counselors all hours, every day.
Barbara Miller served on the churchwide executive board from 2014-2016. She lives in Naples, Fla. She is chair of the Florida-Bahamas Synod hunger committee and serves on the synod’s global mission committee.This updated blog originally ran in September 2015.
Questions for consideration
1. What does God’s word tell us to do in crises?
2. What is your congregation’s attitude toward suicide? What is yours?
3. Have you recognized suicidal tendencies in others close to you?
4. What can and will you do to address their needs?
5. Have you ever felt depressed? Where have you turned?