The statistics are shocking. About 42,773 people die by suicide in America each year. This equates to approximately 117 suicides per day or one death by suicide every 13 minutes. For every death, 25 more people attempt.
43,000 is a really big number. I would certainly lose count trying to count that high. And while I’m not a mathematician, I do know that one is much smaller than 43,000. The number one isn’t nearly as impressive. One compared to 43,000 isn’t earth-shattering.
Until one is your father.
Your best friend.
When someone you love dies by suicide, it feels like 43,000 pounds of pain on your chest.
In Alabama, where I live, suicide was the second leading cause of death due to injury for adults. Right here, among people I know and love. Suicide is also the second leading cause of death for person aged 10 to 24 in the United States. Young people. Kids. Not “crazy” people.
Suicide respects no one. It has snuffed out bright lights like Robin Williams and Ernest Hemingway. Closer to home, suicide robs families of teenagers and grandparents, steals teachers and pastors from communities and takes mothers away from their infants. It is a gift to survive it. Yet, for someone who has just survived a suicide attempt, it often feels like failure to be alive.
494,169 people went to a hospital for injuries due to self-harm in 2014. Those are just the documented cases. Thousands struggle in silence every single day. It could be the lady at your hair salon, the hero who just returned from a tour of duty, your child’s teacher, your grandmother or your pastor.
The suicide epidemic is squeezing the life out of our families, churches and communities. This is the reason I’ve written, “From Pastor to a Psych Ward.” Sharing my story always carries with it a bit of necessary weight, but I refuse to remain silent any longer as people fall victim to the lie that there is no hope or help.
I’m a pastor and I once attempted suicide because my brain has an illness no different from other illnesses. I require medication to function as normally as possible, and I have to visit a specialist to keep track of my progress. The stigma surrounding mental illness, especially in Christian communities, keeps people locked in prisons of shame, refusing to admit they need help.
I share my story not just for those who have failed a suicide attempt. My story can give hope and practical resources to anyone fighting a battle with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or paranoid personality disorder (PPD). People need to know they are not alone, and you can still be a Christian and have a mental illness.
Together we can stop the stigma of mental illness and start saving lives.
Image via Thinkstock.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.