Yesterday was World Suicide Prevention Day. The World Health Organisation’s figures show that every second someone commits suicide – one per second! Most of them are male, and certain groups are at higher risk of taking their lives.
The saddest, most harrowing interview I’ve ever heard was with mother whose ‘bubbly, outgoing’ son had killed himself after months of determined bullying at school. It had changed him from a friendly, confident boy to one who saw himself as completely unlikeable, unlovable, and without any hope of change. His parents did everything they could, even wanting him to change school, but daily exposure to this subtle, consistent bullying, destroyed him. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year-olds, and thank God, there are better preventative programmes in schools than there used to be.
But the highest suicide rate of any age group is amongst people ages 65 and older! Contributing factors are untreated depression, death of a loved one, chronic illness and loneliness.*1 Age UK research shows that more than 1.6 million older people feel their lives are not worth living. They have absorbed ageist attitudes that tell them they have no value to anyone, that they are unloveable.
Ageism is as dangerous and as subtle as bullying. So on this World Suicide Prevention Day, what can we do about it?
We start as individuals. There used to be a T-Shirt with the slogan – ‘Listen to older people – they know more than you!’ We can take a moment to tell an older person that we appreciate them. That, contrary to what ageism says, their age is an advantage because they have more experience and wisdom than younger generations. That, unlike the world’s view, Christians know that God designed old age on purpose, because it says so in the Bible. Do you have older people in your life? Pick up your phone and call or text them to say, ‘God bless you! The world needs you! I need you in my life!’
*1 (https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/suicidesintheunitedkingdom/2016registrations#suicides-in-the-uk-by-age ) and (https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=what-you-must-know-about-suicide-1-4134).