The statistics are shocking. Nearly 43,000 people die by suicide in America each year. That’s approximately 117 suicides per day, or one death by suicide everything thirteen minutes. And for every death, twenty-five more people attempt.
43,000 is a really big number. I would certainly lose count, trying to count that high. I’m not a mathematician, but know that 1 is much smaller than 43,000. The number 1 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 2nd leading cause of death for adults, age 25-34. Right here, among people I know and love. Suicide was also the 2nd leading cause of death in Alabama for kids, age 10-14 in 2014. Kids. Not “crazy” people. Not drug addicts who accidentally overdose. We’re talking about fifth graders in middle-class subdivisions who hang themselves in their closet while their parents are at work!
Suicide respects no one. It has snuffed out bright lights like Robin Williams and Ernest Hemingway. But 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, but 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. And those are just the documented cases. Thousands suffer 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 heart disease or cancer. 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 that they need help.
I’ve written this book 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, OCD, PTSD, or PPD. People need to know that they are not alone and that you can still be a Christian and have a mental illness.
Together we can stop the stigma of mental illness and start saving lives.
*All stats in this article from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
*Also published on The Mighty.
Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
It’s Time for the Church to Confront Mental Health (via USA Today)
Suicide: Let’s Talk about It (podcast)
Pastors and Suicide: How Do We Keep this From Happening Again?
Podcast: When You Feel Like You Can’t Go On
Suicide Survivors: 7 Things to do the Day After You Leave the Psych Ward
Living with Depression & Anxiety: 7 Coping Strategies that Work (e-book)
Guest Blog – Worthy and Unashamed: Facing Mental Health Stigma in the Church Head-On
Guest blog: It’s Depression, Not Demon Possession