A report by the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund singled out Canada as one of the countries that "head the league for suicide of young people." According to their figures, Canada's youth suicide rate of 15.8 per 100,000 people aged between fifteen and twenty-four is the world's third highest, exceeded only by the rates in Australia and Norway. In the United States, there is a reported average of sixteen teen suicides every day. Going back to Canada, statistics also reveal that among Canadians in general, more than 3,500 kill themselves every year, making the suicide rate 15.3 per 100,000. This is still well below Hungary which, according to 1992 figures, had the world's highest suicide rate of 40 suicides per 100,000. Still, although the North American rates are still cause for concern, few people like to talk about the crisis.
Suicide is the fifth most common cause of premature death among Canadians of all ages and the second leading cause of death, after accidents, among people under the age of thirty-five. Although experts estimate that one Canadian in twenty-five attempts suicide and close to eighty percent consider the idea sometime in their life, suicide statistics are often understated because many cases go unreported. Only about ten to fifteen percent of people who commit suicide leave a note. Family members often prefer to believe the cause of death as accidental rather than go through the agony of an investigation.
Doctor-assisted suicide has grabbed the attention of the Canadian news media in recent years, partly due to the case of Sue Rodriguez from British Columbia who sought to end her life and her suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease. Her highly publicized case percolated up through the Canadian court system, championed by her Member of Parliament. Similar court challenges of doctor-assisted deaths have been heard in the United States as a result of Dr. Jack Kevorkian's assistance in the suicides of terminally ill patients. Dr. Kevorkian is a retired pathologist who has acknowledged taking part in forty-five suicides since 1990 and has been acquitted in three trials covering five deaths. Recently, the Vatican condemned Australia's world-first euthanasia law as a revolt against God and a crime against life. The condemnation came after Janet Mills, 52, who had a rare form of skin cancer, used a device driven by a laptop computer to deliver a fatal dose of drugs to end her life.
A Japanese book entitled, "The Complete Manual of Suicide" offered detailed, cartoon-illustrated, how-to instruction on methods of self- destruction ranging from pills to freezing. More graphic than an American release, "Final Exit," the Japanese best-seller even suggested "good" places to hang oneself and high buildings from which to leap.
A High Pressure World
We live in a high-pressure world that often puts people over the edge. Suicide is considered to be a permanent solution to a temporary problem. The road to self-destruction begins with depression and ends in the grave. One hallmark of depression is that it causes its victims to magnify their troubles out of all proportion. Problems that commonly lead to prolonged depression include job loss, financial trouble, bad health, divorce, the death of a loved one and family difficulties. Yet there is no complete answer why someone chooses to die to escape unbearable pain. For some, it might be stress. For some, it is brain chemistry. For others, it is a despair that rots the soul. Who knows why Vince Foster, Abbie Hoffman, Marilyn Monroe, Kurt Cobain and Ernest Hemingway all chose to end their lives at the peak of their respective careers? Did they consider themselves too successful to cry for help?
Suicide rates generally increase about two years after an economic slump when unemployment benefits and hope have both run out. Even seemingly small problems such as being passed over for a promotion, losing a pet or even the onset of winter can be enough to put some over the edge. Young people are particularly vulnerable as their emotions are very fragile and they put much emphasis on what others think about them. A break up with a girlfriend can be devastating and, for some, enough cause to end it all. Warning signs are usually given.
A partial list of warning signs includes:
Feelings of hopelessness
Extreme mood changes
Giving away prized possessions
Loss of interest in work and hobbies
Isolation from friends and family
Loss of appetite or sexual desire
Lack of interest in appearance
Here are some suggestions to anyone even contemplating suicide:
Talk to someone.
Ask for help.
Consider the consequences. It's not pretty.
Get your mind off yourself.
Don't take yourself too seriously.
Deal with what is making you depressed.
Realize that time solves many problems.
Emphasize the positive.
Consider the worst case scenario.
Consider other options.
Pray for strength.
Seek help and comfort from God's Word.
Even though prayer and going to God's Word are the last items on the list, they are really the first and most important.
There have been lonely and depressed people throughout the centuries who have found hope and comfort from the Holy Scriptures. In those pages, we discover that God loves us so deeply that He gave us the life of His only begotten Son through His voluntary death so that we might live forever and not have to die in our sins. In the Bible we find meaning and purpose to life. We find keys to happiness and successful Christian living. We find lessons and can read about mistakes that others have made - things that we don't have to repeat in our own lives.
The Bible is a book that deals with the realities of life - including the topic of suicide. The New Testament mentions the suicide of Judas Iscariot who became filled with remorse after betraying Jesus (Matthew 27:3-5 and Acts 1:16-18).
The Old Testament states that Ahithophel hanged himself after his advice was not followed (2 Samuel 17:23). Zimri's act of arson and suicide is detailed in 1 Kings 16:18. The death of Saul and his armour bearer by suicide is covered in 1 Samuel 31:4-6. Samson killed himself in a final act of destroying a large group of Philistines (Judges 16:29-30).
In their mental and physical anguish, both Job and Solomon contemplated suicide (Job 7:14-15; Ecclesiastes 2:17-18). Jonah wanted to die (Jonah 4:3).
Back in the New Testament, the keeper of the prison in which Paul and Silas were held was about to kill himself when he thought that his prisoners had escaped (Acts 16:27).
Satan tempted Christ through suicide (Matthew 4:6). Christ responded by saying, "It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God'" (Matthew 4:7). It is too bad that nine Tanzanian pupils and a priest who tried to walk on the waters of Lake Victoria as a test of their faith did not heed Christ's statement. This incident, in which all ten drowned, received world wide coverage through an international news agency.
If you are depressed or considering suicide, please take time to read the book of Psalms. It gives hope and encouragement to help with life's difficulties. David, who wrote many of the Psalms, had more than his fair share of troubles but he successfully came through them. The Psalms will tell you, too, how you can successfully cope with your problems. Times are tough, it is true. Times will continue to be tough. In fact, the Bible says that, during a certain period of plagues before Christ's return, many will seek relief through suicide but will not find it (Revelation 9:6).
God commands, "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13). Taking life is God's prerogative, not ours. He expects us to deal with our problems, not to try to escape from them. He advises us that there is to be a resurrection from the dead (I Corinthians 15) so we will have to face our problems down the road anyway. With this in mind, the taking of one's own life is proved to be, at best, merely a temporary solution to one's problems. Suicide is never the answer.