Tom Freier, Published June 10 2013
Letter: Increase in suicide rate mirrors our hopelessnessSuicide deaths have surpassed motor vehicle crash fatalities nationally. It is the third leading cause of death among the young, ages 15-24. Suicide rates are alarmingly high for teens, especially considering there are over 100 attempted suicides for every completed suicide. It is a societal issue.
I write in response to the June 5 Forum story on an increase in baby boomer suicide rates. First, I am not a clinical psychologist. I speak in the macro and my comments are not directed to individuals. My sympathy and prayers go out to all who have suffered the loss of a loved one.
While the suicide rates have gone up for baby boomers, rates are high for all, and especially for our teens. The Washington Post article seeks to ask the why and what can be done.
Hopelessness. If I needed to attach one word to the foundational cause of suicide, it would be hopelessness. While joblessness, a depleted retirement account, a failed romance or a physical or mental health issue can be identified as the problem, what results from these problems is hopelessness. Long-term hopelessness brings on a sense of no way out or absolutely no options. If going it alone, it seems – well – just hopeless.
The article focuses on the expectations of the boomers; flush retirement accounts, carefree, happy lives sparked by the sexual revolution, and staying young forever. Obviously not all boomers share those expectations, but the key word is expectations. We all have expectations. The issue is how we respond to unmet expectations.
If these unmet expectations lead to despondence, despair, and hopelessness, we need an anchor to hold on to – to take us through the tough times. Some of the boomers looked inwardly, to self to cope. As they deal with obesity, drug abuse, broken relationships and mental disorders, they find going it alone is overwhelming. This phenomenon of looking to self is not limited to the boomers.
So where do we look? We look to our faith, family and friends. The intact family is a safe place of stability and security. It is a place where we should place no condition on our love, a love that doesn’t condone or approve of all our actions or behaviors, but will love us as a person. As imperfect created human beings, foundationally we need that safe place.
Sadly, the intact family has been in decline for decades. Today a child born in North Dakota has only a 50 percent chance of having his or her married biological parents living together when he or she reach their 17th birthday. Research data validates less mental disorder with teens from intact families.
As a Christian, my hope is built on Jesus Christ, He is the foundation. It is that relationship that enables unmet expectations to be put into perspective, a perspective of the temporary versus the eternal. Even in times of despair and problems thought overwhelming, there is hope, because that hope is not in self, but in him.
Suicide is real and affects so many. It is a societal issue. We need not look to the government for a solution. We need to take responsibility personally, practice a love without condition in our family and reach out in our church family, our circle of friends, our workplace and the greater community.
Freier is the executive director of the North Dakota Family Alliance.