Ed: We’ve heard suicide described as an epidemic in the U.S. Would you share some of the facts about the prevalence of this issue among Americans today?
Matthew: Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 10- to 34-year-olds.
It’s the tenth leading cause of death in adults.
Females are twice as likely to attempt suicide.
Males are four times as likely to die by suicide.
Over the past two decades, suicide rates have risen about 35 percent—and that’s not counting the people who die by overdose. When people take fentanyl (which is 50 times more potent than heroin) or carfentanil (which is 10,000 times more potent than heroin), they are—at best—ambivalent about waking up the next morning. If we include overdose deaths and adjust for medical advances over the past century (overdose-reversing drugs, antidepressants, 911, and ER systems, etc.), our suicide rate would be at least twenty times higher than it was during the Great Depression.
We are experiencing the greatest depression the world has ever known…
“How can we help those struggling with mental illness and suicide?
Suicide and mental illness are prevalent and worsening issues in our current culture, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this interview, Matthew Sleeth shares lessons from his book on the importance of prevention and how we can help those struggling seek hope and resilience.
Jamie Aten: Why did you set out to write your book?
Matthew Sleeth: As a physician and a theologian, I wanted to explore two questions:
- Has society’s overemphasis on materialism, status, and power resulted in a world that is unlivable?
- If our suicide rate has increased virtually every year over the past three decades, should our approach to preventing suicide in the future merely be more of the same?
Experience and research show that both faith-based and secular approaches are helpful to those suffering from mental illness and, in particular, suicidal ideation. However, we live in a time where there is a growing divide between the secular and sacred worlds. I wanted to give people a book that offers the best of both…”
Originally written for Psychology Today by Jamie D. Aten Ph.D.