by Glen Mollette
Billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender, recently hanged himself in prison. With a lifetime of prison ahead of him he chose suicide over going through another trial, more accusations and a lifetime behind bars.
When comedian Robin Williams killed himself, we were shocked. Williams had been dealing with depression for many years and his mental illness overcame him.
Millions were stunned when television personality Anthony Bourdain was found dead after reportedly hanging himself in France. To many of us it seemed he had the perfect life. He traveled, ate the best food and was rich and famous.
Suicide happens to people at every level. Pastor Jarrid Wilson, a California church leader, author and mental health advocate, died by suicide. At the age of 30 he had a great ministry, was well loved and had a precious family. All of his knowledge and personal tools of the Christian faith did not help him to overcome his depression and mental state.
In 2017 there were 47,173 recorded suicides, up from 42,773 in 2014. The U.S. suicide rate increased 24% between 1999 and 2014, from 10.5 to 13.0 suicides per 100,000 people, which was the highest rate in 28 years according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Why do people commit suicide? My first wife tried. After being on a respirator for three days the first words she said to me after being taken off life support were, “why didn’t you let me die?” Karen had severe Multiple Sclerosis. She was totally debilitated and could do nothing for herself, except think. As a prisoner in her own body she believed that suicide was her hope of escape. Sadly, two years later she died in a nursing home which was a place she had hoped to escape.
For most, suicide is the hope of escaping what seems to be impossible. There are many reasons why some people kill themselves. Sometimes they think it’s their way of having the final word in a failed relationship. Sometimes it’s their way of saying, “I told you that things were bad in my life.” However, almost always suicide results from mental illness. Some people think and talk about it for a long time and finally go through with it. For some people they commit suicide at a dark moment in their lives when it appears the only way out is death.
What is the answer? People must stay connected to a few real meaningful relationships in life. Suicide victims feel alone. People need people they can safely be real with without harsh condemnation for everything they do. This is why some churches and ministers often fail in relationship building. Phony surface friendships aren’t the answer. Next, help such as counseling and reasonable medication are often crucial. Talking to someone who has been trained and is able to help you is important. Hope is imperative. It’s hard to imagine that media personalities such as Robin Williams and Anthony Bourdain felt hopeless but to them it was on another scale. One person’s mental state of hopelessness is not the same for another. This is why people need help in ciphering through the fog of their minds to make sense of their mess and to see a light at the end of the tunnel of their desperation. Prayer, meditation, spiritual direction, counseling, medication, group support, work, activity, hobbies, going to school and plans are all tools in the fight against mental illness and suicide.
Be attentive to the people in your life. Give love, understanding, hope and be helpful. Care enough to talk, listen and be a friend.