This is a very real tragedy for the families and friends of these two people. However there are thousands of friends and families of people who took that same irreversible step, that are going through and dealing with this same tragedy, the suicide of a loved one. I’m going through it myself with some very close friends. As with Kate and Anthony there were no signs of warning, and we are at a loss as to why. With my friend there were no signs that anyone, including his wife and children, saw that would have caused this person to end his life.
Here are some statistics published in a June 7, 2018, Washington Post article published after Kate Spade’s suicide;
Suicide rates rose in all but one state between 1999 and 2016, with increases seen across age, gender, race and ethnicity, according to a report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In more than half of all deaths in 27 states, the people had no known mental health condition when they ended their lives.
In North Dakota, the rate jumped more than 57 percent. In the most recent period studied (2014 to 2016), the rate was highest in Montana, at 29.2 per 100,000 residents, compared with the national average of 13.4 per 100,000.
Only Nevada recorded a decline — of 1 percent — for the overall period, although its rate remained higher than the national average.
Increasingly, suicide is being viewed not only as a mental health problem but a public health one. Nearly 45,000 suicides occurred in the United States in 2016 — more than twice the number of homicides — making it the 10th-leading cause of death. Among people ages 15 to 34, suicide is the second-leading cause of death. (Emphasis mine)
“Historically, men had higher death rates than women,” Kaslow noted. “That's equalizing not because men are [committing suicide] less but women are doing it more. That is very, very troublesome.”
“When you do a psychological autopsy and go and look carefully at medical records and talk to family members of the victims,” he said, “90 percent will have evidence of a mental health condition.” That indicates a large portion weren’t diagnosed, “which suggests to me that they’re not getting the help they need,”...(Emphasis mine)
Cultural attitudes may play a part. Those without a known mental health condition, according to the report, were more likely to be male and belong to a racial or ethnic minority.
“The data supports what we know about that notion,” Gordon said. “Men and Hispanics especially are less likely to seek help.”
The problems most frequently associated with suicide, according to the study, are strained relationships; life stressors, often involving work or finances; substance use problems; physical health conditions; and recent or impending crises. The most important takeaway, mental health professionals say, is that suicide is an issue not only for the mentally ill but for anyone struggling with serious lifestyle problems.
I don’t know if Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain were Christians, but I do know that my friend was born again Christian, a loving husband, father, a good friend, and very active in his church. Knowing this about my friend many Christians will ask;
Most of us will agree that Christians can get depressed, but can Christians get suicidal? Good Christians? Many Christians believe, some unconsciously perhaps, that Christians do not and should not become suicidal, because suicide is, after all, something that only happens when you lose all hope, and don’t Christians have the best Hope there is? After all doesn’t God absolutely, 100% have the power to heal depression?
Most Christians will tell you that you have two options, to give in to that temptation and commit an irreversible (but not unforgivable) sin, or believe God’s promise:
“God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
We Christians often over-spiritualize depression and neglect the very real physical needs of a person caught in depression’s grip. On the other hand, non-Christians tend to focus too much on the physical aspects of depression and neglect spiritual health.
No matter what depression may look like, the attributes of God are almost always under attack. Doubt always follows closely on the heels of depression. If you’re a Christian and you’re depressed you’re in good company.
Moses was suicidal.
Numbers 11:14-15 (NLT2)14 I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy!15 If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!”
Elijah was suicidal.
;1 Kings 19:3-4 (NLT2)3 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there.4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
Jonah was suicidal. He asked to be thrown out of the boat, knowing that he wouldn’t survive;
Jonah 1:12 (NLT2) “Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.”
Paul sounded depressed.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (NLT2)8 We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.9 In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.
I’ve been personally concerned about how Christians view depression and suicide for a long time. My wife, who is now with the Lord, battled depression for the more than forty years that we were married. She attempted suicide three times while we were married and at least one time before our marriage (she died of Cardiopulmonary Arrest a complication that arose from the effects of metastatic lung cancer in 2015).
In December 2014, after Robin Williams’ suicide, I wrote and published a post “Christians And Depression”. In it I identified four warning signs that you may be headed for depression and a crash;
- An Unrealistic Pace (See my posts on Burnout)
- Unrealistic Expectations of Others
- An Unrealistic View on Life
- An Unrealistic Desire to Be Liked by Everyone
And three suggestions that can help get off the collision course toward depression and a crash;
- Denial Doesn’t Help It Hurts.
- We can’t do life alone
- We Must Address What’s Broken on the Inside of Us
I ended that post by saying If you know that you are depressed, think that you are depressed or headed for depression seek professional help. Look for a Christian mental health professional but if you can’t find a Christian professional, find and go see a mental health professional anyway.
The Struggle Of Suicide
Max Lucado - June 9, 2018
The suicides of CNN’s Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade illustrate an all-too-common tragedy— the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reported this week that nearly 45,000 people committed suicide in the U.S. in 2016 alone, and said the suicide rate in the U.S. rose by nearly 30 percent from 1999 to 2016.
While the CDC report isn’t surprising, it is sobering. If a disease saw such a spike like we’ve seen with suicides, we would deem it an epidemic. How do we explain the increase? We’ve never been more educated. We have tools of technology our parents could not have dreamed of. We are saturated with entertainment and recreation. Yet more people than ever are orchestrating their own departure. How could this be? And what can we do?
Suicide victims battled life’s rawest contests. They often faced a mental illness or illnesses and felt the peril of mental fatigue. What you and I take for granted, they coveted. Optimism. Hope. Confidence that all would be well, that she would be well. Their clouds had no silver linings, their storms had no rainbows.
If that describes the way you feel, can I urge you to consider one of the great promises of the Bible? The promise begins with this phrase. “Weeping may last through the night” (Psalm 30:5).
Of course, you knew that much. You didn’t need to read the verse to know its truth. Weeping can last through the night. Weeping may last through the night, and the next night and the next.
This is not new news to you.
But this may be: “Joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Despair will not rule the day. Sorrow will not last forever. The clouds may eclipse the sun, but they cannot eliminate it. Night might prolong the dawn, but it cannot defeat it. Morning comes. Not as quickly as we want. Not as dramatically as we desire. But morning comes, and, with it, comes joy. Joy comes!
Joy comes because God comes.
Mary Cushman learned this truth. The financial Depression of the 1930s all but devastated her family. Her husband’s paycheck shrank to eighteen dollars a week. Since he was given to illness, there were many weeks he didn’t earn even that much.
She began to take in laundry and ironing. She dressed her five kids with Salvation Army clothing. At one point the local grocer, to whom they owed fifty dollars, accused her eleven-year-old son of stealing. That was all she could take. She said:
I couldn’t see any hope …I shut off my washing machine, took my little five-year-old girl into the bedroom and plugged up the windows and cracks with paper and rags. I turned on the gas heater we had in the bedroom- and didn’t light it. As I lay down on the bed with my daughter beside me, she said, “Mommy, this is funny, we just got up a little while ago.” But I said, “Never mind, we’ll take a little nap.” Then I closed my eyes, listening to the gas escape from the heater. I shall never forget the smell of that gas…
Suddenly, I heard music. I listened. I had forgotten to turn off the radio in the kitchen. But it didn’t matter now. But the music kept on and presently I heard someone singing an old hymn.
What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer
Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer
As I listened to the hymn, I realized I had made a terrible and tragic mistake. …I had tried to fight all my terrible battles alone. I jumped up, turned off the gas, opened the door and raised my windows.
She went on to explain how she spent the rest of the day giving thanks to God for the blessings she had forgotten: five healthy children. She promised that she would never be ungrateful. They eventually lost their home, but she never lost her hope. They weathered the Depression. Those five children grew up, married, and had children of their own.
As I look back on that terrible day when I turned on the gas, I thank God over and over that I woke up in time. What joys I would have missed. How many wonderful years I would have forfeited forever… Whenever I hear now of someone who wants to end his life I feel like crying out, “Don’t do it! Don’t”. The blackest moments we live through can only last a little time–and then comes the future.
And you? You’ll be tempted to give up. Please don’t. Open your Bible. Talk to God. Listen for his song. Share about your hurt with someone. Seek help. Place yourself in a position to be found by hope. Weeping comes. But so does joy. Darkness comes, but so does the morning. Sadness comes, but so does hope. Sorrow may have the night, but it cannot have our life.
©Max Lucado, June, 2018
Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living (New York, NY: Pocket Books, 1984) 196-198.
by Jim Burgen from No More Dragons
Being the Hunted
What did Jesus call people who were attacked by dragons, regardless of the righteous way they were conducting their lives? Jesus called these people normal. Jesus made a few promises about what would happen to us, regardless of our faith. Here is what Jesus promised those who love Him the most:
In this world you will have trouble. – John 16:33
Jesus didn’t say, “In this world, there is a slight chance that you will go through hard times.” Jesus didn’t say, “If you don’t have enough faith, you will have trouble.” Jesus didn’t say, “If you go to church, stop cussing, don’t drink too much, and always keep your promises, then you won’t have any trouble.” Instead, Jesus said that trouble will hunt you. Period.
If you are alive and breathing, you will have trouble in this world. Either you will hunt the dragon, or the dragon will hunt you. There is no escaping it.
Jesus had every right to make this statement. Jesus believed all the right things, and He had stronger faith and loved God more than you and I will ever be able to. Still, soon after making this statement, Jesus was arrested and nailed to a cross.
Faith, belief, and love do not buffer or barricade your life from trouble and hardship. In fact, sometimes it feels like having faith and doing the right things can attract trouble.
I want to address the dragon that I most often see hunting the people around me: depression. This includes both the deep blues anyone can feel and the diagnosable imbalance that plagues so many. No one asks for this dragon, but he swallows up many people regardless. This dragon is big, heavy, overwhelming, and he has the potential to crush, suffocate, and swallow you up. This dragon doesn’t create bad days or bad weeks. He creates bad childhoods, bad decades, and bad lives. On and on, day after day, year after year, this dragon causes pain with no relief in sight.
Remember that overwhelmingly sad feeling when you learned that someone you loved died? Remember the guilt and embarrassment you felt after your biggest failure was exposed? Remember facing the biggest problem in your life and thinking that it was impossible to fix? Remember that time, as a little kid, when someone held you under the swimming pool too long, and you thought you were going to drown? Roll all of those emotions into one, carry them around with you every day from the time you wake up until the time you fall asleep, and you will begin to understand the dragon of depression.
When you experience the dragon of depression, your entire world is seen only through the lens of sadness, hopelessness, mourning, loss, emptiness, grief, pain, anger, frustration, guilt, and death. Death is always there, looming and lurking: “I can’t live another minute like this. Death has to be better than this. The people around me would be better off if I wasn’t here to hurt them. I can’t do this anymore. This is never going to get any better.”
The dragon of depression is a cyclical prison cell. It’s like a dog chasing its own tail: “I am depressed. Because I’m depressed, I can’t do what I need to do. This makes me feel like a failure. That makes me depressed. Because I’m depressed, I can’t do what I need to do. This makes me feel like a failure. That makes me depressed.”
David, the famous king from the Bible, knew these feelings well:
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of Your unfailing love. Among the dead no one proclaims Your name. Who praises You from the grave? I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. – Psalm 6:2-6
How long, Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death. – Psalm 13:1-3
King David wasn’t alone, and you aren’t either. This might surprise some readers, but Jesus understands what depression feels like. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just before Jesus was arrested, He experienced the height of His depression:
Then He said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.” Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” – Matthew 26:38-39
If you read Hebrews 4:15, it is clear that Jesus had been tempted in every way that we are, yet He walked through those temptations without sinning. But somewhere along the way, it seems some biblical scholar or translator decided “depression” was no longer included in the long list of ways that Jesus was tempted.
In my opinion, it’s tough to read, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” without concluding that Jesus was struggling with depression. Jesus essentially said, “I’ve been swallowed up to the core of My being with sorrow. The suffocating weight of My sadness is about to crush My life.” Elsewhere, the Bible says this about Jesus’ time in the garden:
Being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. – Luke 22:44
There is a medical condition (hematidrosis) brought on by extreme emotional anguish, strain, and stress during which the capillaries in the skin rupture, allowing blood to flow out of a person’s sweat pores. So for hours, alone in a dark corner of a remote garden, Jesus fell down, curled up on the ground, cried, and prayed so intensely for deliverance from His circumstances that the blood vessels burst inside His skin. You can call it whatever you want, but to me it looks like emotional depression.
Jesus understood, and still understands, depression.
Weeks before Jesus was in the garden, He came face-to-face with everything I’ve just described.
They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet Him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. – Mark 5:1-5
Depression can be caused by many different things. In this guy’s case, depression was caused by satanic attack or demonic oppression. The man in this story was possessed by many demons. If you’re anything like me, you immediately think of The Exorcist or some sci-fi movie, but the reality is that, all through the Bible, we read descriptions of battles being fought in the spiritual realm. The New Testament teaches that while a Christian cannot be possessed by Satan or one of his demons, he can be oppressed.
Satan continues to wage war against Christians by attacking or tempting us.
Depression can also be caused by guilt. Sometimes the weight of our downfalls and sins can cause us to grieve and mourn to the point of depression. That’s one of the reasons King David was depressed. He had just been convicted of adultery and murder, and his child was about to die. He used phrases like, “My bones wasted away… my strength was sapped… Do not forsake me, my God… My heart has turned to wax… my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth… Troubles without number surround me” (Psalm 32:3-4, Psalm 71:18, Psalm22:14–15, Psalm 40:12).
The apostle Peter understood depression after he denied knowing Jesus. After his sin of denying Jesus, Peter wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75). Judas understood depression after he betrayed Jesus to his death. When the weight and guilt of what he had done finally hit him, Judas decided that committing suicide was the only way out of the belly of the dragon in which he found himself swallowed (Matthew 27:1-5).
Depression can also be caused by the difficult circumstances of our lives. Life can get so hard that it makes us depressed, and that’s what Jesus was feeling in the Garden of Gethsemane. He understood why He needed to be sacrificed. He even knew the wonderful outcome that would result from His torture and death. Yet even though Jesus knew that the next few days would ultimately become the most wonderful event ever to occur in the history of the universe, the thought of them still caused Him to collapse to the ground, curl up, and cry until blood seeped from His pores.
Depression can also be the result of a physical illness. Sometimes the circumstances of our bodies can cause us to become depressed. I’m not talking about body image issues causing someone to become depressed (although that happens often). I’m talking about synapses misfiring and chemicals becoming imbalanced. I’m talking about diseases within our bodies. This can be the most difficult cause of depression to wrestle with because you can’t quite put your finger on the reason you are suffering. You’re simply suffering. More on this in a minute.
Regardless of the cause of depression, one factor remains constant: depression always centers on death and pain.
Depression is about death. The naked guy on the beach in Mark 5 lived in a cemetery. When you feel dead inside, you begin to dwell on the things of death, and eventually that place becomes your home. Depression is also about pain. The man would cry out and cut himself with razorsharp stones.
Depression has many causes, it revolves around death and pain, and it has no easy fixes.
Let’s continue with the story about the naked man on the beach:
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of Him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” – Mark 5:6-9
Later in this story, Jesus sends the spirits away and heals the man. That’s when the crowd shows up:
When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. – Mark 5:15
Jesus is bigger, stronger, and Most High over everything.
In the story about the naked man at the beach, the demon of depression recognized and yielded to the authority of Jesus. Jesus is bigger than depression. Whether you personally hunted down your dragon or it stalked and ambushed you, Jesus can set you free again.
Excerpted with permission from No More Dragons: Get Free From Broken Dreams, Lost Hope, Bad Religion, And Other Monsters by Jim Burgen, copyright Thomas Nelson, 2014