Help me fight soaring suicide rates with this

September is Suicide Prevention Month. Not an easy subject to be sure, but one we must address because suicides have skyrocketed in recent years, reaching nearly every American family. (If it has yours, I’ll also offer helpful resources at the end of this column).

About 49,500 people took their own lives last year in the U.S., the highest number ever. Suicide is more common in the U.S. than at any time since the dawn of World War II, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. (And remember these suicides don’t include the skyrocketing overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Every day 150 people overdose in America – 106,000 in 2021 alone.)

The Associated Press reported in August, “U.S. suicides steadily rose from the early 2000s until 2018, when the national rate hit its highest level since 1941. That year saw about 48,300 suicide deaths – or 14.2 for every 100,000 Americans. [Just for the record, globally, a person dies by suicide every 40 seconds.]

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“The rate fell slightly in 2019. It dropped again in 2020, during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some experts tied that to a phenomenon seen in the early stages of wars and natural disasters, when people pull together and support each other.

“But in 2021, suicides rose 4%. Last year, according to the new data, the number jumped by more than 1,000, to 49,449 – about a 3% increase vs. the year before. …

“The largest increases were seen in older adults. Deaths rose nearly 7% in people ages 45 to 64, and more than 8% in people 65 and older. White men, in particular, have very high rates, the CDC said.

“Suicides in adults ages 25 to 44 grew about 1%. The new data indicates that suicide became the second-leading cause of death in that age group in 2022, up from No. 4 in 2021.”

New York-based science journalist Jocelyn Solis-Moreira shared the most devastating news of all about the increase of U.S. suicide rates in her 2022 article, “Alarming rise in number of children attempting suicide by poisoning, report warns.”

Solis-Moreira wrote, “The number of suicide attempts via poisoning are rising dramatically in children between the ages of 6 to 19 according to a new report. Between 2015 and 2020, attempts rose 26.7%, highlighting a growing mental health crisis among youths.

“Cases reported to the National Poison Data System included both attempted and deaths by suicide. In 2015, the number of suspected suicides through poisoning was 75,248. In 2020, that number rose to 93,532.

“Data shows girls make up 77% of the cases. Children of all age groups showed increases in suspected suicide cases via self-poisoning, but alarmingly, there was a 109.3% increase in kids between 10 and 12.

“The two most common self-poisoning methods in children were overdosing on acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Both pain reliever medications are available without prescription in stores, and children are more likely to have easy access to these drugs. Among these, there were 276 deaths and 14,916 cases of self-poisoning that left children with life-threatening symptoms or long-term disability.

“The study authors wrote:

This data demonstrates concerning rises in cases of self-poisoning between 6 and 19 years of age, suggesting that the pediatric mental health crisis is worsening and extending into younger populations. We need to be vigilant for the warning signs associated with suicide risk in our children. Our study is one of a number that demonstrates that we are experiencing an unprecedented mental health crisis in younger age groups.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):

  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth.
  • Transgender people are 12 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.

The soaring rates of suicide are so incredibly sad. One suicide is one too many. But over 49,499 precious souls taking their own lives in just a single year in the U.S.? Completely and utterly tragic.

So, what can we do to help prevent even one?

Experts caution that suicide is complicated, and that soaring increases might be driven by a range of factors, including skyrocketing rates of depression, PTSD, the epidemic of loneliness, the breakdown in the American family, limited availability of mental health services, etc. Even social media proliferation shares blame for the high rates of suicide among youth, as we’ll see in a moment.

But the fact is, suicide often finds grounds in its victims’ isolation and loneliness – or at least the feeling or perception thereof. And the feelings of being isolated and lonely of course have a host of causes.

The BBC launched the Loneliness Experiment on Valentine’s Day 2018 – “a staggering 55,000 people from around the world [from 237 different countries, islands and territories] completed the survey, making it the largest study of loneliness yet.”

The results? Lonely people around the world ranged from 1 in 3 to 4 in 10, with younger adults (ages 16-24) being the loneliest.

In America, however, loneliness seems to be going viral.

In 2019, NPR reported that “more than three in five Americans are lonely, with more and more people reporting feeling like they are left out, poorly understood and lacking companionship,” according to a national survey.

NPR continued, “Social media use was tied to loneliness as well, with 73% of very heavy social media users considered lonely, as compared with 52% of light users.” (One more proof digital connectedness drives one deeper in despair, not out of it. And we call it “social media”?)

Therefore, it’s no surprise that “feelings of isolation were prevalent across generations. Gen Z – people who were 18 to 22 years old when surveyed – had the highest average loneliness. …”

So, what’s the remedy for loneliness? Something we’re all familiar with and can do: love.

It’s not the remedy for all suicides, but love and connectedness (support) can serve as a basis of hope and healing from the depths of despair.

I’m not talking about romantic love, as good as that can be. I’m talking about someone simply showing others’ have value and worth in just being alive.

It reminds me of a man who was recently caught on camera at an intersection in Jacksonville, Florida.

Here’s how a woman named Rika described her encounter with the man to reporter Carianne Luter, a social media producer for News4Jax.

“Picture this – you’re out going to pick up your lunch and there’s this random guy walking by with a handmade sign. I’m sure like most of us, we’d glance and keep it moving, but I decided to read his sign since I was at a stop light.”

Here’s what made it newsworthy: The sign read “HAVE A WONDERFUL DAY!!! I LOVE YOU.” The man also held up another sign that read “YOU are RELEVANT.”

Rika explained, “I snapped a few pictures because why not, but as I was doing this he approached my car door to hand me a sunflower! Don’t forget to appreciate the small things.”

The reporter shared the story with the reminder that the kind messages came during National Suicide Prevention Month.

The report ended, “Although we do not know who the man in the photos is, we do know that he has a kind heart.”

We need this reminder as much now as ever: We are valued and we are loved.

So, maybe John Lennon and Paul McCartney were right, as their mega-popular song goes, “All You Need is Love.”

My wife, Gena, and I believe the two primary relationships that can fill our loneliness cup are with God and others (and we include our beloved pet family members here, too). Both are critical; you shouldn’t have one without the other. The former empowers us for the latter, which is why our relationship with God should be our greatest priority, especially when we’re feeling purposeless, isolated and unloved in this life.

Our dear friend and bestselling author, Randy Alcorn, explained it perfectly when being interviewed about his book, “Happiness“: “God is primary; all other forms of happiness – relationships, created things, and material pleasures – are secondary. If we don’t consciously see God as their source, these secondary things intended for enjoyment can master us. … When we invite God into our happiness, we become aware of how He invites us into His.”

Love is the cure for loneliness and lots of other ailments. It is the pot of gold at the end of the loneliness rainbow. And it just might prevent one person around you from taking their own life.

Maybe it’s time to be more observant of those around us. Maybe it’s time to quit assuming what we see on the outside of people reflects their inside. Maybe it’s time to quit judging the people around us and just love them. Or make sure they feel loved by someone.

As famous English poet and playwright Richard Browning once said, “Without love, our earth is a tomb.”

(If you’ve lost a loved one by suicide, I encourage you to seek the healing resources at If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal ideation, I encourage you to call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or go here. If communicating via text is a more comfortable approach, NAMI also maintains a partnership with the Crisis Text Line, available 24/7 in the United States. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting NAMI to 741741 and a trained crisis worker will respond within minutes. The Crisis Text Line is a free, confidential service that is available 24/7 in the United States.)

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This article was originally published by the WND News Center.

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