I often preach that many churches have forgotten their mission and rely too heavily on the government to look after their flock. Churches (usually unintentionally, but often intentionally) neglect the poor, the sick, the dying, the widowed, and the imprisoned. The same may be said about those who suffer with depression and other emotional and mental conditions that can lead to suicide.
While most churches will tell you they do not have the capacity to deal with these situations – and that is likely true, given the shrinking size of the median Evangelical Church – they can be on the lookout to protect their flock from tragedy.
No, pastors don’t have to be trained psychologist and lay leaders need not be qualified counselors, but there is one sure sign that the clergy and lay person can watch for. This sign applies to every part of the body of Christ, and especially the sick, the poor, the widowed, those who are dying, and the imprisoned… And, those who may be dealing with conditions in their lives that are so tragic that they are considering suicide. Here it is. Here’s what you can do:
Watch for those who have withdrawn from the church body either emotionally or physically. It is they who need you most. Reach out to them. Call on them. Love them. Pray with them. Stay by their side. Help them before you lose them.
A smile and a hug coupled with the love of Christ may be the first step to healing.
Suicide Statistics in the U.S.
While in the most of the world, suicide rates are in decline, suicides in the U.S. have increased. While not nearly as prevalent in the U.S. as in Eastern Europe, Russia, or East Asia, the number of people who in the U.S. who take their own lives is still far too great.
The U.S. is listed as 27th, with 15.3 people out of every 100,000 committing suicide. Lithuania (31.9 per 100k), Russia, Guyana, South Korea, and Belarus are the top 5.
- On average, 129 Americans commit suicide daily.
- In 2017, 1.4 million Americans attempted suicide. For every completed suicide, there are 25 attempts.
- 90% of those who die by suicide had a diagnosable mental health problem.
- Men die by suicide 3.5 times as often as women.
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
- Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in Americans age 15-34.
- Suicide is the 4th leading cause of death in Americans age 35-54.
- Suicide rates are 1.5 times higher for veterans than for those who never served in the military.
- The U.S. State with the highest suicide rate is Montana (28.89 per 100k), followed by Alaska and Wyoming.
- The lowest rate in the U.S. is in District of Columbia, with 6.35 per 100k, followed by New York and New Jersey.
- Suicide rates have risen in the past 20 years in every state but Nevada.
- White males accounted for nearly 78% of all suicide deaths in 2017.
- According to an article on Charisma News in 2013, 3.7% of American adults have thought about suicide.
- According to a study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry in December 2004, attempted suicides among those who are not affiliated with a religious body was significantly higher than those who endorsed religious affiliation.
- Dr. Sterling C. Hilton showed in a 2002 study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology that suicide rates among those who belonged to one particular denomination were dramatically less than the general population. In this case, the suicide rate in the general population was 7 times that of this religious group.
- More than half of pastors have counseled people with mental illness, and 23% report that they suffer from mental illness themselves.
- In a 2015 study by the Shaeffer Institute, 58% of pastors said they have no true and good friends. 52% felt their church had unrealistic expectations for them. 34% battled discouragement or depression. 35% felt inadequate.