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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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What is the Christian response to the growing number of suicides?

What is the Christian response to the growing number of suicides?

When I preparing a homily last week I came across some statistics that astounded me. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the suicides in 2016 nationwide more than doubled the number of homicides, 44,965 compared with 19,362. That’s alarming!

Suicide rates have increased in nearly every state since the turn of the century, and half the states have seen suicide rates go up more than 30 percent.

Guns were the most common method used for suicides especially by men. Research shows that people often make a decision to end their lives quickly in an impulsive way. That’s why we need nationwide laws with a unified waiting period before people can buy firearms to prevent impetuous acts of self violence.

The study from Nationwide Children’s Hospital noted that from 1999-2014 the suicide rate increased three-fold among girls between the ages of 10-14. While males generally committed suicide at a higher rate, the study showed that we need to pay more attention to young women.

Research also found that the people who committed suicide were not only those with serious mental problems. Those who committed suicide were found suffering from other issues, such as relationship problems, substance misuse, physical health problems, job or financial problems, and recent crises or things that were coming up in their lives that they were anticipating.

So what is our response as Christians? We have to be willing to give three things: our attention, our love and hope.

The night before he died, Jesus gave a new commandment to his friends and followers: “I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

The sad thing is, nobody really knows how much someone else may be hurting. We could be standing next to someone who is completely falling apart. They may be wearing a happy face and we would not even sense their pain.

Our love has to be very attentive to others’ needs, especially those we deal with every day. We have to show our love and interest in their lives and asking the right questions. We need to show we care about what is going on in their lives.

Even when we are not getting along with someone, we can still choose to focus on reasons to love, forgive, and support them. We can keep them in our prayers. Remember, love is healing, both to those who receive it and those who give it. To refuse to love is to die. To decide to love is to live. Yet love is a choice, not a feeling, and when we choose to be loving, caring, healing, helping, and forgiving persons, we experience wellbeing and contentment.

We have to be very careful that what we say and do will not affect others negatively. We need to keep our intentions positive. We can never make another person happy for happiness comes from inside us. We can help people see that happiness and fulfillment does not come from external things or people, but from a loving heart in relationship to God and others.

We have the power to help others.

Author Jonathan Huie once said, “We hold the power to make things happen through our intentions – to the extent that we use our intention with compassion and without ego.”

Mother Teresa of Calcutta reminds us, “Every time you smile at someone, it is a gift to that person.”

People need to know that someone cares.

St. Teresa of Avila, the Spanish mystic said, “Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you. All things are passing; God alone is changeless. Patience gains all things. Who has God wants nothing. God alone suffices.”

Some people may have battles that they may be reluctant to talk about. Share God with them. Give them hope.

The suicide prevention number is 1-800-273-8255.