THE LAST WORD: The story of Job heightens awareness of those who may be considering suicide
The growing number of suicides in our community and throughout the U.S. leave many victims in their wake, anguishing families and friends haunted by questions without answers: the whys and the what-ifs.
Many who contemplate suicide suffer in silence and never talk about it, and the more that happens, the more the epidemic statistics of suicide in our country are likely to increase.
While the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., it shows suicide as the second-leading cause of death in Indiana for people ages 15 to 34.
News-Sentinel.com editorials over the last year and a half have cited these and other alarming numbers that prompted Allen County Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan to say, “To me, this is your pandemic. This is your Ebola. This is a crisis.”
In Allen County, the rate of suicides increased 50 percent between 2014 and 2017 from 50 to 75. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the increase in suicides in Indiana went up a third since 1999 (one of 25 states with a 30 percent or higher increase).
There are about 123 suicides every day in this country, says the AFSP, more than 47,000 in 2017. The CDC figures that for every reported suicide death, approximately 11.4 people visit a hospital for self-harm-related injuries — about 513,000 people. The AFSP estimates there were 1.4 million suicide attempts in the U.S. in 2017.
Sunday I listened to our pastor at Grabill Missionary Church, Dr. Christian Nichles, speak about that very subject in his continuing series of messages on the book of Job in the Old Testament of the Bible.
Job was a prosperous man whom God said was “blameless and upright.” Yet on two tragic days he was crushed by the loss of all 10 of his children and their families and servants and of all his wealth through a series of tragedies, then suffered painful sores over his entire body — all in an attempt by Satan to get him to curse God, which he never did.
The specific focus of Sunday’s message was Chapter 3 in which Job, after sitting in ashes for seven days with three friends who had come to comfort him, with no one saying a word, finally speaks.
Job cursed the day of his birth saying it should be erased from history. “Why did I not perish at birth,” he groans, “and die as I came from the womb?”
Job’s anguished lament ends with, “I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.”
Nichles, better known in our church as “Pastor C,” said the content of Job’s words matches the cries of those contemplating suicide.
He went on to say that one in five people in the U.S. experience mental illness, whether for a season or ongoing, and that one in 25 have it so badly they require some kind of treatment.
Pastor C cited the results of a recent survey at Leo High School that showed 20 percent of students who answered have contemplated suicide. When asked who they would talk to if they were to seek help, the top response was “a friend,” next was “a parent” and third was “a pastor” or other spiritual advisor.
The gist of Sunday’s message was a life-or-death imperative: Those going through the turmoil of whatever mental misfire would prompt them to consider ending their lives must talk to someone about it. And those of us to whom they talk must do more than say, “It will all be OK. Just look on the bright side. I’ll pray for you.” They must make sure they get help.
There are too many churches and families who don’t deal with these issues. But, Pastor C said, the church needs to step up and be a safe place for people to go who suffer depression and other mental challenges that could lead to suicide.
Toward that end, Grabill Missionary has set up an online site called “Speak Hope” that contains community resources where those in crisis can get help and get it quickly. To see those resources, go to grabillmc.org and click on the button that says “Download the app.” That will bring you the GMC app, which contains the Speak Hope site: “A place for help and hope when things seem hopeless.”
The CDC and AFSP both provide information on their websites to help someone who may be suicidal. And they recommend people in crisis contact Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.
Kerry Hubartt is former editor of The News-Sentinel.