Suicide: Why Are So Many Dying of Despair?

Last edited 11th September 2017

Suicide: Why Are So Many Dying of Despair?

Some 16 percent of Americans will have an episode of major depression at some time in their lives and six percent (14 million) have suffered from major depression in the last 12 months.

The incidence of depression is increasing, especially among youth. A national study found that the share of 12-20 year olds who had suffered major depression in the last year had increased by 37 percent from 2005 to 2016.

Most people who commit suicide are suffering some form of depression, and the suicide rate has grown alarmingly at the same time as depression has increased.

The rate of suicide for men and women and every age bracket in the USA increased between 1999 and 2014 and the rate among girls aged between ten and fourteen tripled.

Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults and the tenth leading cause of death overall in the USA. Kheriaty posits a few reasons for this increase: increased loneliness among Americans; the weakening ties of family and community; high divorce rates and low marriage rates; the loss of traditional blue collar jobs.

Interestingly, economic explanations cannot account for the fact that adolescent suicide is equally common amongst the very wealthy and the very poor.

One group of persons, however, remain relatively unaffected by the rising suicide rates: the practicing religious. In one recent study of 89,000 people between 1996 and 2010, it was reported that those who attend any religious service once a week or more were five times less likely to commit suicide.

Mere self-affiliation with a religion did not make a difference to the rate of suicide; the practice of religion was what was crucial. Of the 6,999 Catholic women in the study who said they attended Mass more than once a week, none committed suicide.

Not only do most religions have strong moral prohibitions against suicide, but the mere act of church attendance creates a social activity that protects people against loneliness. Further, religious faith can instil a sense of meaning and purpose that transcends the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

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