The recent spate of “celebrity” suicides by hanging — actor Robin Williams in 2014; fashion designer Kate Spade and “celebrity chef” Anthony Bourdain this month — are famous examples of the 25% increase in U.S. suicides since 1999.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) documented a steep rise in suicides in the United States between 1994 and 2014, among men and women and in all age groups between 10 and 74. Although women are still less likely than men to commit suicide, the gender suicide-gap is closing. Among women between 45 and 64 — the ages at which women are most likely to kill themselves — the rate of suicide in 2014 dramatically increased 80% from 1999.
Speculations abound about the suicides of Spade and Bourdain:
- Were they depressed from relationship failures? –Spade and her mouse-mask wearing husband were separated; Bourdain might have been dumped by his satanic girlfriend Asia Argento.
- Was it a case of auto erotic-asphyxiation?
- Was Bourdain Arkancided (just because he said in a tweet that Hillary Clinton’s operatives harassed him for joining the #MeToo movement against criminally-prosecuted Hellywood mogul Harvey Weinstein?)
There is one thing that Williams, Spade and Bourdain all had in common: They did not have the Light of Christ. Williams and Bourdain were Jews; Spade, who graduated from a Catholic all-girls high school, was not observant.
St. Paul said in his Letter to the Ephesians 6:10-16:
Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
A study by a team of researchers led by Tyler J. VanderWeele of Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, confirms the correctness of St. Paul’s injunction.
Published in the August 2016 issue of JAMA Psychiatry, “Association Between Religious Service Attendance and Lower Suicide Rates Among US Women,” the study found that mmidst the wave of despair and suicide, one group of women are bucking the national trend.
Melissa Healy reports for the Los Angeles Times that, using data from 1996 to 2010, the study found the following stunning facts:
- Compared with women who never participated in religious services, women who attended any religious service once a week or more were five times less likely to commit suicide. In a study population made up of 89,708 nurses aged 30 to 55, and dominated by women who identified themselves as either Catholic or Protestant, the suicide rate observed was about half that for U.S. women as a whole — only 36 of them committed suicide at some point in the course of 15 years.
- Which church, Protestant or Catholic, matters. Although Protestant women who worshiped weekly at church were far less likely to take their own lives than women who seldom or never went to church, Catholic women were even less likely — seven times less likely to commit suicide than Protestant women.
- How often one attends church also matters: Among especially devout Catholic women, suicides were non-existent. There was not a single suicide among the 6,999 Catholic women who said they attended Mass more than once a week.
- It’s not whether one is Christian; it’s about church attendance: The suicide-prevention effect of religion was clearly not a simple matter of group identity: Self-identified Catholics who never attended mass committed suicide nearly as often as did women of any religion who were not active worshipers.
The study’s authors concluded that church attendance is “a form of meaningful social participation” that buffers women against loneliness and isolation — both factors that are strongly implicated in depression and suicide — and that “Religion and spirituality may be an underappreciated resource that psychiatrists and clinicians could explore with their patients, as appropriate.”
Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, director of the medical ethics program at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, and co-author of The Catholic Guide to Depression, said the lengthy duration of the 2016 study — women were asked about their religious attendance every two years starting in 1996 and then followed until 2010 — “suggests a causal relationship between religious practice and a significantly lower risk of suicide, especially among Catholics“:
“Religious convictions and practices can help people foster a sense of hope, even in the midst of major crises or adversities. Religious faith can help people find a sense of meaning and purpose even in suffering. It’s not our role to ‘prescribe’ religion… or proselytize to our patients. It is safe to assume that religious conviction and faith must be genuine and sincere if they are to provide the mental and physical health benefits that several studies have suggested. [But if patients are inclined to explore religion or spirituality,] doctors can encourage patients to explore such activities confident that religious practices will likely not harm, and may indeed, help, their patient’s mental health.”
The 2016 study confirms and adds to recent research on the potential benefits of religiosity, contrary to Sigmund Freud’s sneering denunciation of religious belief as the “universal obsessional neurosis of humanity.”
- Epidemic of loneliness due to decline in religion & church attendance
- Religious faith is most powerful non-medicine against pain