Suicide always comes with a jolt. Even when it occurs to the sick or elderly, there is the initial shock — then the awful emptiness. Why are so many, worldwide, choosing suicide as the solution to life's problems?
Why is it, with so much to live for, that so many in the prosperous nations are not willing to live out their lives?
We read of the plight of the poor Haitians or the Vietnamese boat people who risk life and limb in leaky, dilapidated old boats in a frantic attempt to flee the poverty or the oppression of their country for the abundance and freedom of the outside world. They do not choose death as an escape. But their despair is so great they risk death in attempting to find a better life.
Yet in the countries sought out by refugees, the lands of their dreams, people who have enjoyed the better life by the thousands choose death as an escape.
What a paradox! In countries in which it would seem there is little real cause for despair and worry, people destroy themselves as a final solution to their problems.
Suicide has become a major problem in the industrialized nations, of the Free World. But some Eastern European countries fare no better. Hungary has the dubious honor of having the highest suicide rate in the world with East Germany an immediate second. Fourteen other nations make the list before the United States. Those highest on the list are some of the technologically and industrially most advanced nations of the world. They are the socialized nations where the people should have the least to worry about in life and future.
The lowest ratings in the world are among those nations that would be considered to have the least by way of physical riches, the nations of the Caribbean, South America and the Philippines being at the bottom of the rankings!
They Are Sick Why do people in free and prosperous countries hate themselves and their lives so much that they seek and all too often find in suicide the final solution? Those in the poorer nations of the earth risk their very beings in hope of obtaining freedom and the opportunity to live as most of us do.
Why? We ask again. Is there an answer?
What is missing in the lives of so many who decide it just isn't worth the effort of living? They indeed reflect the attitude of the ancient patriarch Job: "I am sick, sick of life..." (Job 10:1, Moffat translation).
The whole world seems to be sick of life. On every hand we hear threats of war or fears of future missile attacks. Men in governments can threaten the desolation of whole continents. No one is ready to be the first to give in to stop it. The world is indeed sick!
The leaders of this world are becoming exactly as God said the descendants of ancient Israel would become: "... the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment" (Isa. 1:5-6).
This is describing the state of mind of our people today and the state of civilization were it to be engulfed in hydrogen war. We are mentally and spiritually sick and unable to face the tremendous strains of life.
Our Youth Are Dying, Too Self-inflicted death strikes at the healthy as well as the infirm. It strikes at the established more than at the poor. Although attempted by more women, a higher toll is exacted from the men — mostly because of the methods used. Women prefer the slower-acting route of drugs or sleeping pills, while men usually choose the more violent and sure forms such as shooting or jumping.
The most pitiful of all statistics is the awesome toll exacted among our most intelligent, capable and valuable asset — the youth of the world. Self-destruction is the final solution to life's hopelessness for an increasing number of young people. In the United States, for example, death by suicide among young people has tripled in recent years. It is the THIRD LEADING CAUSE of death for young people of the United States following accidents and homicide. Recently, preliminary studies indicate it has now risen to the second leading cause of death.
The problem, again, isn't uniquely one of the United States. Austria, Denmark, Holland, Germany (East and West), Hong Kong, Hungary, Japan all suffer the horror of their young people choosing the final solution to their problems. The malady strikes most viciously among the highly socialized, technologically advanced nations of the world.
Why? What are the reasons these young people give up on life before they have lived it?
The answer reads like a litany written to the 20th century: too much money, too much alcohol, too many possessions, too many drugs, not enough love and concern by parents. Add boredom, depressions, stress, fear, frustration, hopelessness, low self-esteem and guilt — which all too often are connected to a recent family breakup.
Even more heartbreaking is the realization that for every successful attempt, there are 50 to 60 unsuccessful attempts. In addition there are the scores of unreported, unlisted attempts made by those in their sub-teen level that are counted as accidents to protect the very young and their families. No parent wants to acknowledge that his or her child has given up on life. All too often that is exactly the case.
Who Are the Victims? A profile of the typical victim makes no sense on the surface. Most are from the middle to upper-income families. They generally are or have done well in school and are accepted or respected by their peers. As in all attempts at self-destruction, more females make the attempt while more males succeed. In most causes they have been crying out for help and the plea has gone unrecognized. Nearly 75 percent of those who succeed have talked of suicide in the past. Many have made previous attempts and failed only to repeat and succeed. Most seem to have planned their action and carefully carried out their plan.
Two groups appear to be more susceptible to the desire to find a final solution for their problems. They are those who are loners, who are more comfortable by themselves, and those who are substance abusers, who misuse alcohol or drugs. The misuse of these substances is an attempt to find relief from worries and frustrations. When the crutch fails and no relief is found, they turn in desperation to another solution. Hopelessness and despair are common denominators found with most suicide victims, whether young or old.
What problems could young people possibly have that are so insurmountable as to require such a grisly solution?
The Problem of Competition Adults speak of the pressures on the job and the many stresses they have to face in the competitive world of today. They escape for the weekend to the mountains or seashore. They have recreation vehicles, campers, boats — you name it. Nothing is too much to ease the pressure. In addition to all this, they seek escape with alcohol or drugs and feel they deserve the respite. "But what kind of problems do kids have?" they ask.
In this modern day world of ours, youngsters have the same pressure to compete, the same pressures to be accepted, the worries about the future. And children have parental pressure, too. The demands by successful parents for their children to succeed and to uphold the family reputation are horrendous. Gets better grades in school, be a doctor, be a lawyer, attain, achieve, succeed — these are some of the problems young people face. All too often they face the problems without the help, encouragement and understanding of a knowing and loving family.
Austria, Germany and many other European nations, Japan, Hong Kong — all are having to acknowledge the pressure to succeed in the highly competitive school systems of these countries is an important factor in the rising suicide-death rate. In a recent study conducted among students in a Hong Kong junior school, 14 percent of those interviewed are reported to have said they would choose suicide if the going proved too hard at school or the pressures from home became too great.
Job security and future wellbeing in many of these countries depend on how well the young have done in school. Higher education or university level education is only available to those who have passed the secondary level with high enough marks. Failure dooms most young people to a life of mediocrity, low-paying jobs and little future. The pressures are intense. A reflection on the parents is implied. Many young people simply cannot cope with the trauma.
The resulting attitude is an overwhelming sense of futility. No hope. Nothing left to live for. They are trapped — held captive by parental demands, habits, environment and personal problems. They seek escape.
They search desperately for answers and that elusive, intangible feeling called happiness. Promiscuity doesn't give it. Alcohol and drugs can't provide it. The family doesn't seem to be interested or care. Desires once fulfilled have no lasting satisfaction. There is no peace of mind.
At the apex of life, there is no hope. They are blind to the scripture that says: "Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment" (Eccl. 11:9).
Youths should be without the pressures and stresses of adulthood. Youths should be responsible and dependable as youths. Youth should be a time of rejoicing and enjoying life, but life lived so it will not bring condemnation in the future.
A close, loving, understanding and interested family is one of the prime deterrents of futility in a young person's life. Money, cars, drugs can't substitute for a caring family. Lasting happiness for either the young or old does not come solely because of the physical goods possessed.
Success Not the Answer Wealth and success are not the ultimate answers. Not having to be concerned about the needs of life doesn't guarantee happiness. Tiny Denmark, with one of the most advanced social welfare systems and the highest standard of living in the world, is cursed with the highest rate of self-destruction in the Western world. Nearly twice as many Danes take their own lives as die in automobile accidents. Close behind Denmark is another advanced social-welfare state, Sweden.
Having the needs of life and the worry about those needs taken care of does not automatically provide contentment, regardless of what the Haitians and Vietnamese refugees think.
In many of the more affluent areas of the United States, the death rate by suicide among young people is above the national average. Growing up with wealth or having needs guaranteed by the state means there is nothing left to work for. This world's standard of success is not the panacea to end all woes and solve the problems of life for either young or old. All too often it destroys any real purpose in life. Without something to strive for, to aim for and to hope for, the meaning goes out of life. Not knowing the real purpose for humanity the reason to live vanishes.
God told the people of ancient Israel: "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Prov. 16:25). People daily are choosing the way that seems right to them. But the way that seems right ends only in empty, frustrated lives — and, for many, suicide.
Medicine the Answer? Suicide is not a pathological problem. It is not a biological problem of the brain. It is not a genetic problem of the brain. It is a problem of the mind.
More than half of all physical ills are mentally or spiritually caused. One medical expert estimated that 70 to 90 percent of his patients fell within the category of those having nothing wrong with them physically and whose physical ills are due only to the vicissitudes, the problems of life.
All too often, then, the supposed answer to the patient's problem lies in self-destruction. Doctors can't seem to stem the tide of suicide. Studies in San Francisco, Philadelphia and other U.S. cities indicate that more than 70 percent of the persons who commit or attempt suicide are or recently have been under a physician's care.
Many times the drugs prescribed to help relieve the problem are the instrument used to end the problem. So apparently medical assistance isn't the final right solution either.
Medicine and medical treatment aren't the answer. Wealth isn't the answer. What, then, is the answer? We are able to make nuclear bombs, rockets, spaceships and send men to the moon. We put a space shuttle into orbit and bring it safely back to earth to be used again and again. We plot courses across millions of miles of space to bring our technological instruments close to distant planets. In every way, we are advancing in technological skills and abilities.
Yet we are unable to chart the course of human life in the paths of happiness.
Reading the Warning Signs There are warning signs of a pending attempt at self-destruction. They are often silent pleas for someone to hear. The indications are basically the same for either young or old. Suicide is a problem of all ages and it is increasing in all age groups.
A threat of suicide should be taken seriously. It is rarely done on a spur-of-the-moment impulse. There may be a preoccupation with death or the afterlife. Abrupt changes in behavior, moodiness, withdrawal, aggressiveness, insomnia, lethargy and lack of interest in personal appearance are also potential signs. Loneliness and lack of friends can be indicators as can the giving away of prized possessions.
A sudden burst of euphoria and an increase of activity following such talk or actions doesn't mean the worries are past. Often the arriving at a decision to take one's life is a momentary lift because the decision has been made. It helps if you can get the person to discuss what is on his or her mind. In many cities there are counseling centers to help with these problems. It helps to understand what the physical effects of life are. But the real cure is to find the cause.
What is needed is a genuine solution of a totally different kind. Present-day religion does not hold the key to this problem because it doesn't know the reason for man's existence. There is far too large a gap between the 20th century religion as it is preached in most churches and the first-century religion taught by Jesus Christ to his apostles.
The young person or the older adult who has to face the apparent futility of everyday life, who has been looking for answers and seeking to escape emptiness, sees no hope in the world's society. Every day there is the threat of nuclear war, economic chaos, unemployment and all the other ever-present problems of this hectic modern-day life — but no answers. No hope. With these pressures, some find it extremely difficult to recognize the presence of a real God who does have the answers and final solution to life's cares.
Source of Real Help All these poor, unfortunate potential suicides don't know how to get real help. But there is a source of absolute power, a source of complete confidence and faith that would see them through every conceivable problem to the day of their natural death. That Personage is Jesus Christ.
When he was a human being walking this earth, he was the kind of person who knew how to deal with practical people problems. He knew just the right antidote for all the physical, mental, emotional and psychological problems plaguing the people of his time.
Jesus was strong and forceful when he had to be — but also meek, lowly, humble, gentle, the Lamb of God, a very real friend in time of need — not a trigger-happy, shoot-from-the-hip type who would jump down your throat at the slightest provocation.
Jesus said: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30).
At the outset of his ministry in a small Jewish synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus Christ forcefully recited his commission of compassion — his absolute unwavering intention to relieve human suffering. He said: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives... to set at liberty them that are bruised" (Luke 4:18).
This he did at every turn of his ministry. He once said: "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine" (John 10:14). Jesus Christ pictured himself as leaving the 99 dwelling safely in the sheepfold and going to search in a ravine or desert for that one poor lost lamb (Matt. 18:11-14).
Jesus Christ is our Redeemer. He is willing to buy back each one of us as his own purchased possession. One of the proverbs says, "The way of transgressors is hard" (Prov. 13:15). We have sinned and brought upon ourselves the wretched side effects that are the automatic products of transgressing God's laws (see I John 3:4, Rom. 6:23). Sin is the real source of suicidal thoughts.
But Jesus Christ is God — not a mere, mistake-ridden, human go-between. He is perfect, eternal, living Spirit personality who is even now at the right hand of the Father to plead our cases before God. The apostle Paul wrote, "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15).
Why do people in free and prosperous countries hate themselves and their lives so much that they seek and all too often find in suicide the final solution? Jesus Christ talked to his disciples about daily problems. "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?" (Matt. 6:25).
Christ wasn't telling them it was wrong to meet these needs. He was telling them it was wrong to lust after these things and overly concern themselves with thoughts of physical welfare.
Christ said in another place, John 10:10, that the very reason he came to this earth was that we might have life, not death, and that we might have it more abundantly. Again he said, "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth" (III John 2).
Jesus Christ meant what he said! He wants us to have an abundant life. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the wealth and prosperity with which many nations have been so bountifully blessed.
There Is Hope Can you imagine it? Life, the most precious, wonderful, exhilarating, thrilling possession of each human creature — life, with its marvelous opportunities, its challenges and adventures, its sorrows and joys, its successes and its failures — and, above all, its awesome potential for the future — life cast worthlessly to the ground by suicide!
How far we have departed from God! Many is the suicide victim who tried religion! He heard all the wonderful things about "salvation," "sanctification" and "deliverance." He heard all about Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, and about the happiness he was supposed to experience! But still he committed suicide!
Because he didn't hear the plain truth of Almighty God! What he heard was without the real power to change his life! He wasn't able to find that happiness he sought.
You either have the truth, or you do not. You are either in real contact with the real God — or you are not! It's time you knew where the only source of peace and happiness is to be found — knew where true security and safety are to be found for you and yours — knew where God is doing his work and how you can have a fulfilling part in it!
Jesus came preaching the message of the kingdom of God! He foretold our days — telling exactly how this pulsating time of history would end! He is, at this moment, beginning to intervene in human affairs! He will soon return to this earth, to set up his own kingdom on it — and bring the world, forcibly, relief from its brain-chilling problems that lead to, among other things, self-murder!
God has the solution, not just a solution. He offers each person life! Life that is meaningful, interesting, joyous, happy, abundant — right here and now, and life for all eternity, in the kingdom of God!
Peter mentioned this life in I Peter 1:3, "a life of hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (Moffat translation).
What is this life of hope Peter holds out to us? It is the life in the kingdom of God! — and under the government of God in the world tomorrow. It is good news (the word gospel means "good news"). "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.... the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert" (Isa. 35:5-6). The blind, deaf, crippled shall all become normal and enjoy life to the full.
There will be no more warring among nations (Isa. 2:4). No more killing one another and taking one man's freedom away from him. No fear of nuclear bombs, or any other kind of bomb, for they won't be allowed.
There will be no more emptiness and uselessness.
And there will be no more suicide! Everyone will want to live in the glorious world tomorrow! Everyone will know the real purpose in life and the reason for his existence.
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