Suicide Prevention Week: Anxiety, Mental Health & Biblical Insight
Writer: Jim Denison
Anxiety is escalating in our culture. According to recent surveys, more Americans than ever before are stressed, depressed, and anxiety-ridden. Nearly forty million people in the US (18 percent) experience an anxiety disorder in any given year. Anxiety disorders are the most common and pervasive mental disorders in America.
And numerous studies have related anxiety directly to suicide. Compared to those without anxiety, patients with anxiety disorder were more likely to have suicidal ideations, attempted suicides, completed suicides, or suicidal activities.
These were the facts even before the pandemic that is challenging millions of Americans who face mental health issues.
According to an August 13, 2020 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four young adults said they had considered suicide in the previous month because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Roughly 30.9 percent of respondents said they had experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression.
An article in the New England Journal of Medicine noted that during public health emergencies, “emotional distress is ubiquitous in affected populations.” And counselors warn that the isolation created by stay-at-home restrictions can especially contribute to psychological harm.
As a pastor and a theologian, I am not qualified to offer medical advice or professional counseling to those suffering from anxiety and depression. But I can offer biblical insights on the painful issue of suicide. In light of National Suicide Prevention Week, let’s look at this issue through the lens of Scripture.
And let’s offer others the hope and help that we find in Christ.
What Does the Bible Say?
The Bible does not actually contain the word “suicide,” however it is still relevant to this subject. There are five instances in the Old Testament of people taking their own lives or having another do it for them, and there is one in the New Testament.
What the Bible makes unmistakably clear is the sanctity of life, Denison said. “In a nontheistic or relativistic society, it is difficult to argue for life and against suicide. If we are our own ‘higher power,’ we can do with our lives what we want, or so we’re told,” Denison said. “But if God is the Lord of all that is, he retains ownership over our lives and their days. He is the only one who can determine when our service is done, our intended purpose fulfilled.”
Three Biblical Promises
The Bible makes three promises to those suffering today.
One: You and everyone you know is someone of inestimable worth.
Depression and life crises can cause people to feel that their lives are not worth living. The opposite is true. Every person on earth is someone for whom Jesus died.
Two: God loves you and wants to help.
Denison quoted Psalm 34:18 as an example of God’s compassion for each individual: ”The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” He continued, “However, let me repeat that one of the most important ways the Great Physician heals is through human physicians. That’s why you or families with loved ones suffering from a mental illness need to reach out to professional counselors as soon as possible. God will use them as he ministers his grace to you and your family.”
Three: You can “dwell on the heights” with God.“Isaiah 33:6 says God wants to be ‘the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge,’” Denison said. “And verse 16 says the person who walks with him will ‘dwell on the heights.’ This is the promise, and the invitation, of God.”
Denison pointed out that every threat of suicide should be taken seriously. And for help, people can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s website at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
For much more on this subject, read the complete article on the Denison Forum.