Suicide, God, and Stigma

After the heavy social media coverage of the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain last week, I wondered what more I could possibly add to the conversation. Then I read a terrible blog post in The Federalist by Caroline D’Agati claiming that suicide is a reaction to meaninglessness in life that only God can fill. Interpretation: Less God, more suicides.

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Fact: There is no evidence that people who are religious are less likely than anyone else to suffer from depression or to take their own life. Suicide is not about religion, or the lack thereof. It’s also not about morality. It’s about psychological suffering so deep few can understand.

Most suffers don’t want to expose loved ones to the dark thoughts plaguing their minds, even though that is exactly what they should do. My mother tried her best to share her thoughts and feelings with us and when she did it was truly terrifying. And we were only peeking over the edge of the abyss, not staring into it upon waking every day. Of course, she had many reasons for living and often remarked on them, as did Anthony Bourdain.

So we’ve established that the lack of God in one’s life isn’t the cause of the rise in suicides. So what is? Despite suicide being the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, the National Institutes of Health spent more money researching dietary supplements than it did suicide and suicide prevention. Why aren’t we dedicating more resources to fight suicide? The answer is stigma.

What can you do to help? Stop with the judgment. Suicide has nothing to do with personal weakness, selfishness, or lack of faith. So just stop it already. Even better – correct others when you hear similar negative messages. It is not at all helpful in preventing suicides. In fact, it does just the opposite. It adds to the despair of the afflicted. Stop being part of of the problem.

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