Global suicide rates are worse than most realize—but a solution is coming.
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She jumped. One thousand feet below the building’s observation deck, the hood of a car broke her fall. Bystanders had helplessly watched her desperate freefall that ended in shattered glass and crumpled metal. The impact was explosive, a life snuffed out in the blink of an eye.
There would be no wedding. No children, no grandchildren. No happy memories. Surviving family members were left to pick up the pieces, wondering why. Her sadness was now transferred to them. They became the victims.
All have been affected in some way by suicide. You may know friends or family members who have attempted it or even succeeded. You may have even contemplated or tried it. Famous world leaders, artists, businessmen and women, comedians, actors, musicians, authors and doctors have all succumbed to self-destruction.
According to the first report on suicide from the United Nations World Health Organization, someone kills themself every 40 seconds. Over 800,000 people end their lives every year.
“‘Suicide is an amazing public health problem…it is a huge number,’ said Shekhar Saxena, director of WHO’s mental health department…‘Suicide kills more than conflicts, wars and natural catastrophes,’ he said. ‘There are 1.5 million violent deaths every year in the world, of which 800,000 are suicides’” (Agence France-Presse).
On top of this, officials estimate that for every person who commits suicide, 20 attempt it. While these statistics are staggering, they can be easily glossed over as “just numbers.” The real stories involve gruesome gunshot wounds, violent and tragic murder suicides, nooses and chairs, drownings, stabbings, slit wrists, and sleeping pills.
A dark curtain of depression is hovering over millions of people.
Why is living so hard for so many?
A March 2014 piece in The New Yorker revealed the scope of the problem. Suicide is skyrocketing at a rate no one expected: “Le Monde, the leading [French] newspaper…published the results of a medical study of French fifteen-year-olds, which revealed that almost twenty-one per cent of girls and nine per cent of boys reported attempting suicide in the past year. That’s a shocking number, and it speaks to a global trend. In the United States, suicide rates have risen, particularly among middle-aged people: between 1999 and 2010, the number of Americans between the ages of thirty-five and sixty-four who took their own lives rose by almost thirty per cent. Among young people in the U.S., suicide is the third most common cause of death; among all Americans, suicide claims more lives than car accidents, which were previously the leading cause of injury-related death.
“Last May, citing the ‘substantial’ rise in suicide among the middle-aged, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention described suicide as ‘an increasing public health concern.’ That realization has begun to spread…In America, these numbers—which many experts believe are lower than the actual figures, owing to under-reporting—cannot simply be attributed to the toll of a long recession, or increasing gun ownership: clinical depression is also on the rise.”
Due to increased suicide activity on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, the bridge’s Board of Directors “unanimously approved $76 million in funding to erect a 20-foot-wide steel net—extending out from each side of the 1.7-mile span—to deter would-be jumpers” (CNN).
Since the bridge’s completion in 1937, over 1,600 people are estimated to have used it to end their lives. It is the second most used suicide spot in the world. “Tourists” travel from every corner of the globe to use it as their suicide method of choice.
An in-depth article published by Newsweek in 2013 added more detail to the grim picture of self-inflicted death. Experts predict we may be seeing just the beginning of a rapid rise in suicide deaths (emphasis added): “Every year since 1999, more Americans have killed themselves than the year before, making suicide the nation’s greatest untamed cause of death. In much of the world, it’s among the only major threats to get significantly worse in this century than in the last.
“The result is an accelerating paradox. Over the last five decades, millions of lives have been remade for the better. Yet within this brighter tomorrow, we suffer unprecedented despair. In a time defined by ever more social progress and astounding innovations, we have never been more burdened by sadness or more consumed by self-harm. And this may be only the beginning. If…others are right—and a landmark collection of studies suggests they are—we’ve reached the end of one order of human history and are at the beginning of a new order entirely, one beset by a whole lot of self-inflicted bloodshed, and a whole lot more to come.”
Note the fact that a “new order” of “self-inflicted bloodshed” is supposedly beginning, with “a whole lot more [suicide] to come…”
What a depressing forecast for man’s future!
Yet should experts who say we are on the cusp of a “new order” be believed? In one sense, they are right. But it will not come as they expect.
Young people by the millions are looking at the world around them and choosing death over life on planet Earth.
The WHO reported that suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15- to 29-year-olds worldwide.
Stop and think about the tragedy behind just this one statistic. For this age group—those who have their whole lives ahead of them—the second leading cause of death is suicide!
As modern society grows more difficult and complex, each successive generation finds it harder to cope with life’s difficulties. Because people’s character has eroded, much less stress is needed for them to self-destruct.
If you doubt this, contrast the “Greatest Generation” of World War II with today’s emotionally immature teenagers of “Generation Z,” who are often sent over the edge by social media bullying.
A 17-year-old British teenager explained to BBC Radio 4’s Today program that she had attempted suicide after being bullied by classmates: “I felt alone and isolated—I wasn’t happy because the bullying followed me everywhere and I didn’t really have an escape,” she said.
“I thought ‘What’s the point in being alive if nobody likes me?’. I thought ‘Why am I still here—we’re all going to die anyway so does it really matter if I go now.’”
ChildLine, a counseling helpline in Britain, saw over 34,000 consultations with children calling for counseling about committing suicide in the 2013-2014 year. This number was a 116 percent increase over what was seen in 2010 through 2011, according to the media outlet.
What a sad statement about societal conditions when even our youth see no hope.
People end their lives for many reasons. Some do it after business failures, or financial problems such as debt and bankruptcy. Others see worsening world conditions and conclude there is no hope. Divorce, stress, fear, lack of control, and guilt also play a role. After some unsuccessfully try to fill the void in their lives with money, material possessions, sex, alcohol, drugs and every other form of escape—they decide there is no other option but the final escape—death.
Others commit suicide because of a lack of social connections. They have no family members or significant others to show them the basic love and concern all human beings need. One man’s suicide note stated that if just one person smiled at him as he walked to the bridge he would not jump. No one smiled at him.
Think of how many people you might have crossed paths with on the street, shared a taxi with, or sat next to on the subway who were experiencing similar thoughts.
A Business Insider article offered a glimpse into the minds of those who attempt suicide, showing it is most often an impulsive act (emphasis added): “Anywhere from one-third to 80% of all suicide attempts are impulsive acts, according to The New England Journal of Medicine. 24% of those who made near-lethal suicide attempts decided to kill themselves less than five minutes before the attempt, and 70% made the decision within an hour of the attempt.
“Suicidal urges are sometimes caused by immediate stressors, such as a break-up or job loss, that go away with the passage of time. 90% of people who survive suicide attempts, including the most lethal types like shooting one’s self in the head, don’t end up killing themselves later. That statistic reflects the ‘temporary nature and fleeting sway of many suicidal crises,’ reports The New England Journal of Medicine…”
The article continued with an example of two men who survived jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. They recounted how, even in midair, they regretted their knee-jerk decision.
“Many rare survivors of Golden Gate Bridge suicide attempts recall regretting their impulsive decisions instantly—even as they were falling. A couple survivors who jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge told their stories to The New Yorker back in 2003, like then-18-year-old Kevin Hines who jumped in 2000 after pacing on the bridge for a half hour while passersby ignored him.
“He finally jumped based on the thought that ‘nobody cares.’
“‘My first thought was, “What…did I just do? I don’t want to die,’” Hines told The New Yorker.
“Then-28-year-old Ken Baldwin, like Hines, chose to hurdle over the bridge’s railing rather than stand on it first because he didn’t want to lose his courage to jump. Although he was severely depressed on that day in 1985, he changed his mind the moment after his leap. ‘I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped,’ he said.”
This story strikes at the core of the problem—loneliness and hopelessness. People do not like their current circumstances and feel their lives will never improve.
The then-18-year-old Mr. Hines concluded that no one cared. Yet there is a Being who does.
Discouragement to the point of suicide is part of human nature. All human beings who have ever lived experience feelings of despair and discouragement when events in their lives do not turn out as they expect.
The pain of depression can squeeze all hope from every cell of one’s body. Even some of history’s greatest leaders fought deep depression. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once described it as the “black dog.” U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, regarded as one of the strongest leaders of all-time, battled depression.
Many may also find it surprising—and encouraging to a certain degree—that some of God’s leading servants battled bouts of suicidal thoughts.
The patriarch Job, after enduring horrific trials brought on by Satan, sought death. Notice: “So that my soul chooses strangling, and death rather than my life. I loathe it; I would not live alway: let me alone; for my days are vanity” (Job 7:15-16).
After undergoing severe trials, the prophet Jeremiah wished he had never been born: “Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed. Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto you; making him very glad. And let that man be as the cities which the Lord overthrew, and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide; because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb to be always great with me. Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labor and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?” (Jer. 20:14-18).
The prophet Elijah, fleeing for his life from a vengeful Queen Jezebel, was temporarily suicidal: “He…came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers” (I Kings 19:4).
After hearing his despair, the account in I Kings records that God comforted Elijah during his trial. Similar could be said of Job.
An overarching theme when examining suicide notes is the need to escape the terrible conditions on Earth. Those who commit suicide feel that life “has become unbearable.” Many see or experience violent crime, rape, broken families, and misery, and ask, “Why has God abandoned mankind?”
The knowledge of why this world is in such terrible condition is revealed in a book that many own but few study. Mankind’s future could be known if journalists, educators and other leaders were willing to investigate the only source of divinely revealed knowledge—the Bible.
This Book reveals mankind’s history and future. Humanity has been cut off from its Creator ever since its fateful decision in the Garden of Eden to take to itself the knowledge of how to live.
Since then, man has existed in a state of isolation from God’s blessings and protection. Chapter 4 of II Corinthians reveals the true ruler of this world. Notice: “…the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of them which believe not…” (vs. 4).
Revelation 12:9 also describes “the Devil…Satan, which deceives the whole world.”
In light of just these two verses, is it any wonder that life is filled with pain and misery for so many millions of people? (To learn more about the state of this world, read our revealing booklet A World in Captivity.)
Satan seeks to destroy mankind. John 10:10 states, “The thief [the devil] comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.”
Another statement from Christ in John reveals a notable description of the devil’s nature: “the devil…was a murderer from the beginning” (8:44).
Whether Satan can successfully inspire someone to kill another person or to kill themselves, the end result is the same: death. Suicide is, without a doubt, self-murder. Just because the life a person takes is their own does not make it right.
The Sixth Commandment clearly states, “You shall not kill” (Ex. 20:13). Although some argue they have the “right” to take their own life, this is a gross misunderstanding of human “rights.” Only God, as the Creator of life, ultimately has the right to take it.
There is also the controversial subject of assisted suicide. Although outside the scope of this article, assisted suicide obviously falls under the category of “suicide.”
Return to John 10:10. It explains God’s will for every human being: “…I [Christ] am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
God desires that everyone live the “abundant life.” But how can this happen?
No matter how many suicide prevention call centers mankind opens, humanity has proven to be unable to address the root cause of suicide—the unsatisfying and painful conditions that exist worldwide. Just like it has not yet been able to solve so many of its other problems—disease, war, poverty, crime, etc.—humanity has also failed to prevent the current suicide epidemic.
God deeply cares about every single human being—those made in His image (Gen. 9:6). If He knows every “hair on your head,” (Matt. 10:29-31) and notes when every sparrow dies, how much more does He care about every human being who has ever lived? The often-quoted John 3:16 makes clear that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…”
Because of this outgoing concern for His Creation, God plans to soon intervene in world affairs. Bible prophecies recorded long ago reveal that a new world is coming. Jesus Christ said, “I will come again” (John 14:3). At His Second Coming, He will usher in the kingdom of God—a world-ruling supergovernment that will bring the peace and prosperity that so many desperately seek.
Notice what God inspired the prophet Isaiah to record, “Unto us a Child is born [speaking of Christ]…and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end…and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this” (9:6-7).
Utopia is not a distant dream of the world’s educators, philosophers, city planners, economists or political leaders. It will soon be reality. This incredible period is described throughout the pages of your Bible, and its arrival means the end of suicide.
Now notice what God’s Word reveals about the peaceful environment that will allow children to play safely in the streets: “Thus says the Lord; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the Lord of hosts the holy mountain…there shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof” (Zech. 8:3-5).
This prophecy shows that people, young and old, will soon live full, rich lives, not cut short by a frantic impulsive decision or feelings of hopelessness.
Jesus Christ promised the “abundant life” (John 10:10) to His followers. This productive and happy life will soon be offered to all human beings, including those who previously lived and died. The millions who committed suicide will be resurrected to new life, in a wonderful environment. Each one will receive an opportunity to qualify for eternal life. (Our booklet Is There Life After Death?—reveals more about God’s Plan for those who have succeeded in ending their own lives.)
Dramatically improved global conditions will make suicide a thing of the past. No longer will people see death as an escape. They will want to live! The Creator of mankind actually put in all of us the desire to live. This is why those who survived suicide attempts from the Golden Gate Bridge say they immediately regretted the decision—in midair!
Suicide is preventable when the right conditions are in place. Think. What if there were no broken families? What if the bonds of friendship were strong and unbreakable? What if everyone always had someone to talk to about their problems or frustrations? What if all human beings had a purposeful role in society, with a steady and productive job? What if marriages were all rock-solid? Consider how much stronger would be the social fabric.
How many people would want to commit suicide under such conditions?
In this world tomorrow, everyone will be taught to exercise self-control over their mind and their emotions. People will be given the strength to overcome feelings of despair. They will believe real positive change is possible. Once this world’s terrible environment is replaced, men, women and children will no longer want to escape their circumstances. And those who previously committed suicide will be shown how to overcome the problems that once overcame them.
Despite the world’s gloomy reports that rising suicide rates are the “new normal,” there is hope. The coming new world will provide an environment where people will not desire death. (To learn more about what God’s Word reveals about man’s future, request our free book Tomorrow’s Wonderful World – An Inside View!.)
For millions struggling, there is a light at the end of the dark tunnel—there is hope.