Let’s make attention to suicide a priority

By Father Joseph Breighner
I recently received a number of sad phone calls as people shared with me various trials and tragedies. The saddest of all came from a Jewish friend of mine in South Carolina. For years her son had struggled with drug addiction. He had been in and out of rehab, and still attended various 12-step programs. His mother, Susan, heroically supported him all through his struggles.
Her call on this particular night was to tell me that the drugs had won the battle. Her son had committed suicide.

“It’s hard to look at your son with a bullet hole in his head,” she said through her tears. Her son would have been 24 last month.

I tell her story because it is so much more than just her story. Drug addiction and suicides among our young people are at epidemic proportions. She said that the funeral director told her that in this one funeral home he had buried 48 people between the ages of 18 and 25 who had died either from drug overdoses or suicide in the past six months.
We hear a lot being debated in our political campaigns. We hear a lot about terrorism. How much do we hear about this terrible loss of our young people? I think it would be relatively easy to survey all the funeral homes in the United States to see if these statistics are nationwide. Wouldn’t this be a worthy issue to inject into our political campaigns? We hear so much about terrorists that we seemingly are missing the drug terror that is taking so many young lives.
Yes, the news is filled with stories of drug dealers gunning each other down. But what about those who are taking their own lives? Ironically, the addictions and suicides are largely occuring in middle class homes. We need a certain amount of income to buy the drugs.
If you and I can raise enough awareness of this issue perhaps it could even take a central spot in all the political campaigns. Wouldn’t someone like a Dr. Ben Carson, with his background in saving so many lives medically, be an ideal person to at least inject this idea into the campaigns? To raise awareness of this issue is surely more important than winning any election.
When Susan first called, I thought of that Jewish mother and her son, and thought immediately of another Jewish mother and her son – Mary and Jesus! Jesus too would die a seemingly senseless death. Yet, his death would prove to be redemptive. Can we take this death and turn it into something that can save the lives of others?
How do we prevent suicides?

Obviously the experts are divided. But the one answer I would offer comes from Dr. Bill Hick, who said that young people – all people – need to know that they matter. We may kill ourselves in many situations, but at the core is that people no longer think that their lives make a difference. We need to believe that every life matters. When we share even our struggles and defeats, we give others courage to move beyond their own struggles and defeats.

Jesus said that he “came that we might have life, and have life to the fullest.” Those seem like strange words from a young Jewish man who would be rejected by the priests and executed by civil authorities at a very early age. Yet, there is so much more to life than in this brief physical journey we call life. We are made in the image and likeness of God. We are made of the stuff of God. Pray that this young man, who has passed through the darkest of dark nights, will now experience the eternal light and life of God. And pray that this Jewish mother will be comforted by another Jewish mother, Mary. Life is changed not ended. God’s love doesn’t end. Neither does a mother’s love.
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Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.