Welcome to the How to be Saved from Suicide podcast. This is episode #11. My name is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International. The simple purpose of this podcast is to help confront, from a biblical perspective, the tragic epidemic of suicide in our world today, which has even seen a spate of self-professing Christians in positions of ministerial leadership—namely, pastors—take their own lives. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that each year approximately one million people die from suicide, which represents a global mortality rate of 16 people per 100,000 or one death every 40 seconds. It is predicted that by 2020 (this year) the rate of death by suicide will increase to one every 20 seconds. As the apostle James wrote in his epistle on a different matter, “My brethren these things ought not so to be.”
Our scripture passage for this episode of the How to be Saved from Suicide podcast is Psalms 13:2-3 which says, “How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me? Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;”
Our quote for this episode of the How to be Saved from Suicide podcast is from Thomas Watson. He said, “No creature but man willingly kills itself.”
In this podcast, we are going through the book: “Preventing Suicide: A Handbook for Pastors, Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors” by Karen Mason.
We continue today with Chapter 1: Who Dies By Suicide? (Part 4).
Risk and Protective Factors: Researching Suicide
You may wonder how we answer this question about factors when “the chief source of information is no longer available.” One method employed is psychological autopsy, which comprises in-depth interviews with family, friends and colleagues of the person who died by suicide, as well as professionals who worked with him or her, in order to clarify intent to die.
Another method is epidemiology, which involves the study of patterns related to suicide deaths in order to identify risk factors (factors that increase the likelihood of suicide) and protective factors (factors that decrease the likelihood). Durkheim calls these factors the “coefficient of aggravation” and the “coefficient of preservation.” Epidemiology can also help quantify the amount of risk a factor adds—for example, researchers have found that almost six times as many people who have a diagnosis of alcohol abuse or dependence die by suicide compared to the general population. Based on these methodologies, researchers have identified the following risk and protective factors, which may be factors in Jim’s and Joan’s suicidal thinking.
Mental health factors. A prominent factor associated with suicide is the presence of a mental health problem. In a large national survey, a mental health disorder was present in 82 percent of people with suicidal thoughts, 94.5 percent of those who made a suicide plan, and 88.2 percent of those who had attempted suicide in the previous twelve months. Major depression was the most common disorder. The “big five” mental health disorders are of particular concern for suicide risk: borderline personality disorder (400 times higher suicide rate than that of the general population), anorexia nervosa (which increases suicide risk 23 times), major depressive disorder (20 times more risk), bipolar disorder (15 times greater risk), and schizophrenia (8.5 times greater risk). Joiner assumes that everyone who dies by suicide experiences at least some symptoms of a mental health problem. Mental health factors are important to know about because one in five Americans has a mental health problem and this may confer some suicide risk. For example, John, an unemployed contractor in his fifties, lived with depression and thoughts of suicide since his college days, experiencing a lifelong struggle with not meeting his father’s expectations One in five members of your congregation may be at some risk of suicide because of a mental health disorder.
Having more than one mental health problem increases the risk of suicide attempt five times. Fifty-one percent of people who attempt suicide have both a mental health problem and a substance abuse problem. Use of drugs or alcohol can be particularly dangerous in young people, where alcohol intoxication has been found in approximately half of suicides, but it is a risk factor in all age groups. Substance use tends to disinhibit and impair judgment such that McKeon concludes, “For both death by suicide and suicide attempts, acute alcohol use played a role in over one third of the cases, a finding of great clinical significance.” Substance abuse can also create other risk factors, such as relationship problems and social disconnection. Other mental health symptoms add risk as well. For example, anxiety or agitation can facilitate the change from thinking about suicide to acting on those thoughts. Sleep problems have been found to confer risk even after controlling for depression. People with suicidal thinking often report nightmares.
Other biological factors. Having a mental health problem is not the whole story of suicide because only one to three percent of people who have a mental health problem die by suicide. Joiner points out that mental illness as an explanation for suicide is dissatisfying because mental illness is much more common than suicide.
To explain how people come to take their own lives, we also have to consider the possibility of a genetic component. For example, one twin study found that identical twins have significantly greater risk for suicide and suicide attempt than fraternal twins. In a study of the Amish, suicides clustered in just a few families. Agerbo, Nordentoft and Mortensen found youth suicide to be nearly five times more likely in the offspring of mothers who had died by suicide and twice as common in the offspring of fathers who had died by suicide, even after adjusting for parental mental disorders. The Institute of Medicine reports that having a first-degree relative die by suicide increases the risk of suicide six times. However, it’s also important to put these statistics in context. As Joiner notes, the risk of suicide for any given person is one out of 10,000; having a family member die by suicide increases this risk to no more than five out of 10,000. Genetic predisposition to suicide does not in any way, shape or form make suicide inevitable. In addition to genetics, the associations between lower levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain, and impulsivity and violence point to the part biology plays in suicide.
Lord willing, we will continue looking at this subject in our next episode.
— PRAYER —
Now, if you do not have hope in God because you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, here’s how.
First, accept the fact that you are a sinner, and that you have broken God’s law. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
Second, accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”
Third, accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Also, the Bible states in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
Now this is bad news, but here’s the good news. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can live eternally with Him. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will.
Romans 10:9-13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”