The Federal Communications Commission is working to establish a three-digit suicide prevention hotline. It will use the number 988, comparable to 911 for other emergencies. The reason for this new emergency number is a surge in deaths by suicide over the past ten years. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. More than 20 veterans commit suicide each day, and more than 500,000 LGBTQ youth attempt to kill themselves annually.
You might think that the reason for an increase in suicide is poverty or hunger, but that is not the case. According to the experts at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the common denominator is a lack of hope. As a former atheist, I can verify that kind of thinking. As an atheist, when I no longer was the “fittest,” my moral foundation built on “survival of the fittest” collapsed. That’s when I reached the point of attempting to end my life. There is no hope when everything around you is collapsing, and you are no longer in control.
The word “hope” occurs 135 times in the Bible. Life has meaning when we have faith in Christ and believe that this life leads to something better–even when we are not the fittest. Christ’s teaching and the New Testament repeatedly refer to joy. That joy leads to loving life and looking forward to the future no matter how bleak our circumstances are now.
The 988 number of the suicide prevention hotline is good because just having someone to talk to may help a person contemplating suicide. But it may be 2021 before the number is in service. The greatest message of hope comes from the Bible, and it’s available now. The real source of hope comes from finding new life in Christ, as Romans 6 describes in glowing terms.
When a celebrity commits suicide, it makes front page news and dominates the tabloids for months. We still hear about Robin Williams’ suicide which happened in 2014. Now we have Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain dominating the news during the early part of June. What many of us don’t realize is that 44,965 Americans killed themselves in 2016 and that from 2010 to 2016 there has been a 70% increase in suicide among girls ages ten to 19. The nation as a whole has seen a 28% suicide rate increase from 1999 to 2016.
The experts are trying to explain all of this. Certainly, there is more than one factor involved, but we suggest that a major factor in our country’s strong movement away from faith in God to a rejection of religion as a whole. Jesus Christ has given us a purpose in life. The unique teaching of Christ is that everyone, no matter what their situation or appearance or abilities, has a purpose in living. In addition to that, Christianity provides a way to deal with the failures in life. No one needs to live with a load of guilt. We can be forgiven of our sins and overcome our guilt, and we can turn the mistakes of the past into a ministry to help others walking the same path that we walked.
What can you expect if you are taught that you are an accident, that you have no purpose, and that life is merely a chance-driven battle for survival of the fittest? It is not hard to see the attractiveness of ending your life when you have no purpose, and you face struggles that seem impossible to overcome. How could we not have a suicide rate increase?