Happy New Year! ‘Tis the season to be…depressed.
Although the holidays can be stressful, most people celebrate with full hearts and a joyful spirit. But for others, this season is not so rosy. In fact, a disturbingly large proportion of us struggle with depression at this time of year. Unfortunately, too often, that depression is so crippling, it leads people to take their own lives early in the New Year.
Are you one of those people who is contemplating suicide because the future seems bleak? If so, here’s a personal appeal from me. Don’t do it. Don’t even think about it. Instead, seek help – now.
Each year, more than 30,000 Americans kill themselves – and more than 470,000 ER visits are initiated to treat self-inflicted injuries. A disproportionate number of these incidents occur early in the year.
As this San Francisco Chronicle article notes, “Most people hold their feelings together during the run-up to the new year. But once the holiday letdown sets in, calls to suicide hot lines nearly double.”
Aggregate public health statistics actually paint a slightly different picture – with suicide rates trending higher at other times of the year. But that’s small comfort if you’re overwhelmed with feelings of loss, failure or isolation at this moment.
Tough Times for Military and Civilians, Alike
No doubt 2010 has been particularly harsh. Joblessness and financial crises have left us all more vulnerable to depression than ever.
And among those of us who serve in the armed forces, the suicide rate has sharply increased in recent years – particularly among “citizen-soldiers” in the National Guard. Seriously disturbing statistics apply to veterans, as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vets account for an estimated 20% of all U.S. suicides.
Medical and mental health professionals are trying to determine why – but the fact remains – we’re seeing alarming suicide trends across-the-board among past and present Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.
Bottom-line – whether you’re in the military or not – the desire to kill yourself is equally dangerous. So, if your life has gone dark with despair, I’m here to remind you of two critical facts:
- You are not alone
- Hope is always an option
Reasons to Reject Suicide (Note: There are no Wrong Answers!)
Here’s why I believe suicide is the wrong choice – for anyone – on any day:
1) Suicide is irreversible. Of course, that’s obvious. But it’s important to remember that your decision can’t be changed. Game over. Done. You’ll never again experience beauty, feel laughter, enjoy friendship or love, listen to music, savor food, smell flowers, play with children, or do any of the things that make life fun, interesting, exciting, inspiring or meaningful. Don’t be swift to let go of these things. Even if you’re suffering today, they can be available to you again – but only if you’re willing to choose life.
2) Suicide always hurts the people we least want to hurt – family and friends who love and care about us. When we hurt emotionally, we often tune-out the voices of those who want to help – parents, siblings, friends, lovers, colleagues, even pets. When we die, they suffer. When death comes from suicide, those left behind carry an extra burden of guilt and pain.
3) Suicide defies nature. In the 1970s, studies began to analyze people who’ve temporarily died – in other words, they survived a near-death experience (NDE). Results suggest that there may, indeed, be life after death. But interestingly, everyone who survived a suicide attempt characterized their NDE as bleak or black – lacking any joy or love. After being revived, they felt they had done something terribly wrong.
4) Suicide is illegal in all states. And among major religions, it’s considered immoral. Why? Intentionally killing any human being can’t be justified, unless it protects others from greater harm. And killing yourself violates the unique life God created in you. That’s primarily why theology finds suicide unacceptable – it destroys a special individual who can’t be replicated. It’s like permanently defacing a piece of divine artwork.
5) Suicide is also a violation of love. It dismisses and devalues the love you have ever received from anyone else. In effect, this act tells anyone who has loved you that their commitment was completely wrong.
6) Lastly, suicide denies hope an opportunity to flourish. Hope is what defines us as humans. Machines have no ability to hope. Nor can hope be manufactured. But we’re all born with the capacity to believe in a better, brighter tomorrow. Sometimes that capacity can be short-circuited by circumstances inside or around us. But suicide is not the solution.
My Plea as a Father – to Every Son and Daughter
The other day, my daughter and I had a sober conversation about this topic. I had just read about Bernie Madoff’s son killing himself. It made me sad, and I wondered how any parent would feel in that situation. I can’t imagine the grief and pain – it would be horrible. I know it would crush me, so I made my daughter promise me she would never do such a thing.
Fortunately, my daughter is not depressed, and has never been suicidal. She’s happy and emotionally healthy. She has many friends. She is perhaps one of the least likely people to consider suicide. Still, I know this world can be cruel, so I asked her to promise me never to do such a thing. She did.
If you ever consider suicide, please remember that you’re not alone, and that there is hope. Think about some of the things I’ve mentioned. Promise yourself that you won’t choose death. Or better – make that promise to someone you care about.
Even if you think you’re alone in this world – there is always someone who wants to help you get through your dark times. Don’t be too proud to ask for help. The pain will eventually pass, and you’ll be glad you’re alive to experience a better day. Trust me.
If you or someone you know is facing a suicidal crisis, support is always within your reach. Call now:
Choose life. You won’t regret it.
Here’s to a healthy, happy road ahead – for us all.
P.S. Would you like to discuss faith, freedom, troop support and related issues with me? Join my “Afghan Journal” Facebook Forum: http://Facebook.com/AfghanJournal.