Many of us know of someone who has committed suicide. According to the National Center for Health age-adjusted suicide rate in the United States increased 33% from 1999-2017. Among those aged 10-34, it is the second leading cause of death after unintentional injury. Among those 35 through 54, it is the fourth leading cause of death after unintentional injury, heart disease and cancer. These tragic statistics make one wonder: Why do people commit suicide? Why the increase? What can we do to help?
Many who commit suicide are depressed and don’t see a purpose to living. Often the medical solution of taking anti-depressants doesn’t remedy the underlying problem, and may have adverse long term effects. More recently, some believe and advocate that the best way to show “compassion” and “help” these individuals is to legalize assisted suicide.
There are many causes of depression: chemical imbalances in the brain, neurobiological and genetic factors, divorce, family problems, loneliness, abuse, trauma, economic difficulties, “feeling like a failure,” stress, addictions, spiritual struggles, and sin. Depending on the causes of the depressed individual’s problems, there is a role for the medical doctor, the psychotherapist and/or the priest. In the words of psychiatrist Dr. Aaron Kheriaty “The confessional was never meant to cure neurosis …and the (psychotherapist’s) couch was never meant to absolve sin.” That being said, for those whose depression has been brought about by sin, the sacrament of Confession can provide profound healing.
We can help those who suffer from depression by praying for them, by encouraging them to help others, to set goals, to recover their self-esteem, to have confidence in their abilities, and by reminding them of their purpose in life. Even their (and our) suffering, offered up, as Jesus shows on the cross, has immeasurable value. As Father John Hardon, S.J. writes in his essay The Apostolate of Suffering, “…we serve others best when we do most for their souls. And we do most for their souls when we obtain graces from God for their numerous spiritual needs. If this means prayer, and it does, there is no more effective prayer than one that is joined with sacrifice, which in practice means prayer that is animated by the cheerful acceptance of the Cross.”
If we know someone who has committed suicide, we should pray for him and keep in mind the words of the Catechism: “We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to Him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for those who have taken their own lives.” (2283)
In his book, The Catholic’s Manual, Fr. Tilmann Pesch, S.J. writes “You are made to be happy. Happiness is the object of your existence. The natural instinct, implanted by God in your heart, impels you toward happiness. But God wills that this strong impulse shall follow the right direction, shall lead to that happiness which He has prepared for you.” Bishop Sheen wrote that “Life is worth living when we live each day to become closer to God.” Years ago, many of us learned the same thing in the Baltimore Catechism: “God made you to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him on earth and to be happy with Him forever in Heaven.” Heaven is the purpose, the goal, of each of our lives.
This month your station is showing a series produced by Our Lady’s Tears Productions in Mankato called “Depression: The Whole Truth.” This five hour documentary explores the medical, psychological, pharmacological, societal and spiritual causes of depression and proposes solutions.
Please continue to support your station by offering to volunteer (we need video editors!), telling others about the station, praying for its success, and making a financial contribution if possible.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam