Many people were stunned this week after two hugely successful and famous Americans committed suicide, and government statistics show suicide is rising dramatically around the country. What is behind the horrific upswing and what can be done to reverse it?
Fashion legend Kate Spade took her own life, reportedly by hanging, at her New York City apartment. On Friday, famed chef and television host Anthony Bourdain was found dead, also by hanging, in a French hotel room.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. The research shows that, since 1999, suicide rates are higher in almost every state. And in more than half of the states, the increase is more than 30 percent than just 19 years ago.
Michael Brown is a national radio host and author of “Saving A Sick America.” In his ministry work, Brown says he encounters desperate people on a regular basis. He says the worst thing is to express shock and horror at yet another suicide and then do nothing.
Brown says there are no easy answers to explain the surge in suicides, but he believes there are some critical questions to ask.
“We have to ask in what ways have we become more sick as a society. Has the breakdown in family life contributed to things? Has the isolation and loneliness in which people live contributed to things? Have we lost some of our spiritual roots that give us a sense of meaning and purpose and dignity in life as people created in the image of God?” asked Brown.
Brown says making personal connections is vital in helping people see there will be brighter days ahead. He says just paying attention to how people are acting and taking the time to interact with them can do a world of good.
“Many times we’re so caught up in our own lives that we don’t stop and observe. Most people, if you take a personal interest in them, they’re willing to stop and talk,” said Brown. “If they’re going into a shell, if they don’t [seem] to be themselves, take time out of your schedule and get with them and say, ‘Are you OK? What’s going on?'”
He says hope is another powerful tool, both when people have a reason to anticipate the next day and when they don’t.
“With hope you can endure almost anything. But when you lose hope, when the pain is too great to even think of tomorrow, that’s obviously when people are going to consider suicide,” said Brown.
For family members, Brown recommends learning what gestures of love a loved one responds to along the lines of the Christian book “The Five Languages” and then engage with them in those ways.
Brown himself was shooting up drugs as a teenager until he accepted Jesus Christ as his savior. He says a relationship with God through Christ is immensely powerful in dealing with depression and other struggles that could lead to suicide.
“The one thing I know for sure is that a vibrant relationship with God through faith in Jesus through the scriptures have saved many people from depression, many people from suicide, but there are Christians who struggle with these issues as well,” said Brown.
He says the forgiveness found in Christ transforms lives.
“When you know that you’re in relationship with God and He loves you, suddenly you have this extraordinary affirmation. My life counts. Guilt can plague and destroy you. When you get rid of the guilt and now you know you’re forgiven and you don’t have to have those nightmares day and night, that’s incredible,” said Brown.
And he says the guilt and despair is replaced by something indescribably wonderful.
“Being in God’s presence when you’re in right relationship with Him brings extraordinary joy. I can’t think of anything that would be an antidote to depression, suicide, hopelessness than pure joy,” said Brown.