". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


As Suicide Rate Reaches Record High, Experts Urge Believers to ‘Reach Out,’ ‘Be Present’

November 30, 2023

Americans are now taking their own lives at a rate never before observed in the United States. On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report revealing that in 2022, the suicide rate reached 14.3 per 100,000 people, the highest rate ever recorded dating back to at least 1941. Experts and public policy leaders are ascribing the rise to a spiritual crisis brought on by increased secularization and the continued effort to rid the public square of God and biblical principles.

While mainstream media outlets are largely attributing the record surge to increases in mental health issues and the lingering effects of the COVID pandemic, the steady increase in the suicide rate over the last two decades indicates that larger issues are lurking under the surface. Since 2001, the suicide rate has consistently climbed with each passing year, increasing incrementally from 10.7 to 11 from 2001-2006, reaching 12.3 five years later, and ascending to 14 in 2017.

While there were glimmers of hope in the CDC report for young people, who saw the suicide rate drop 18% for 10- to 14-year-olds and 9% for 15- to 24-year-olds as compared to last year, men older than 75 saw their rate rise to the highest of any age group to 43.7 per 100,000. Overall, men compromise the vast majority of suicides. In 2022, 39,255 men took their own lives, a 2% increase from last year, while 10,194 women committed suicide, a 4% increase. The overall total is expected to increase more once final data is available.

Dr. Jennifer Bauwens, a psychologist with extensive clinical and research experience working with survivors of trauma and abuse, joined “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” on Wednesday to analyze what is behind the alarming suicide increase, particularly among older males.

“[Y]ou [may] think, ‘Why on earth would this population, white males 75 or older, be at risk for suicide?’” she pointed out. “… [W]hen we look to some of the things that happen with post-traumatic stress, sometimes you see this age group … not show any symptoms until they start retiring. … Maybe they have a loss of a spouse or a loss of relationships, a loss of meaning. They’re not productive in that sense of what they’ve lived their whole life in. And so now they’re faced with, ‘What is my life about?’ … [O]ur whole world right now is saying, ‘What is life about?’”

Bauwens, who serves as the director of the Center for Family Studies at Family Research Council, went on to observe that the mainstream media largely does not cover the spiritual aspect of suicide “even though the [social science] literature recognizes that having a spiritual belief or a religious affiliation is protective against suicide. And yet that’s what we’re seeing decline in our world. So we should be emphasizing that in every sector of our society: belong. Find a place of faith.”

Bauwens further emphasized that there are dark spiritual forces at work that are contributing to the increase in societal hopelessness.

“[A]s believers, … we need to recognize that there is an attempt to steal our hope in this hour,” she noted. “But I really believe that if we can remain hopeful in the face of adversity, we are going to have the most influence because people are looking for hope-filled people. And when we can rise up in the midst of what’s going on in our world and say, ‘There is a way through this. There is a way to not just [survive], but to thrive.’ And we can only get that in connection to the Holy Spirit. That’s not something that we can drum up, but that comes through relationship with Jesus. Because He is hope, and if we’re not anchored in that hope, we can’t offer that hope.”

Perkins added that “as believers, we need to be in the Word, because that’s really what … inoculates us to the attacks of the enemy, the hopelessness [and] despair that often comes on everybody in this world.”

As for practical action steps that can be taken to respond to the suicide crisis, Bauwens urged believers to simply reach out. “[A]t a very practical level, if you know people who are in these age groups or people who’ve experienced some of the risks, they’ve been through a loss of a job or a loss of a family member or friend. Reach out to them, visit them, because we are the hands and feet of Jesus, and we show that connection with Him to others.”

Perkins concurred. “It doesn’t have to be anything profound. It’s just coming alongside, having conversations, and doing life together. I know a lot of people [are] hesitant, ‘I just don’t know what to say.’ Just go have a cup of coffee.”

Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.