According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention suicide rates increased in all but one state between 1999 and 2016. In 2016 there were twice as many suicides and homicides in the United States. Last week a group of high school students took to the streets of Denver to launch a campaign to cut suicide rates in half. They gave away “Its ok to be not ok” bracelets and sought to engage anyone and everyone in conversation.
In 2010 Anna, Texas, with a population just over 8,000, was rocked by a series of suicides and suicide attempts. Three times in a sixteen-day stretch the police responded to calls involving apparent suicides or suicide attempts. Churches in the city urged residents to gather at Slayter Creek Park in Anna to pray for the city, its residents and for its leaders.
Sooner or later suicide becomes personal for each of us. Someone we know, or someone close to us takes their life. A number of years ago, my cousin’s husband, a psychologist with a doctorate from SMU, wandered out into the woods behind their home, sat down at the base of a tree and shot himself.
Suicide, whenever and wherever it occurs always leaves a wide swath of emotional destruction among family members and friends leaving in its wake feelings of confusion, anger, guilt and grief. Like all wounds, time helps, but the shadows of suicide never completely disappear in the lives of those closest to the victim.
The primary symptoms leading to suicide appear to be depression and hopelessness. Almost everyone gets depressed at one time or another. Some of the greatest personalities in history have battled depression, including Abraham Lincoln. But when depression slips into despondency and hopelessness, an irrational moment can result in the shocking headlines we read in the newspapers.
As human beings, each of us faces a difficult moment at some point over the span of our lifetime. In today’s connected world we can scan the globe on our keyboard and, at the same time, not know the name of our neighbor next door or across the street. Individuals come and go in such a hurry that the support network of family and friends has shrunk in today's society and some feel they have no place to turn.
None of us can read the minds of those around us, but each of us can resolve to be a better friend, a better listener and simply be there for others. Suicide is never God’s plan for anyone’s life. God always offers a future and a hope. He can remove the guilt that often leads to despair. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18) Even when circumstances are darkest and the future seems impossible, God has a way forward that we cannot see. “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” (Jeremiah 29:11).