Next week, I will spend an entire day teaching Health classes at South Whidbey High School. This has become a Fall and Spring ritual for me. It is a great opportunity to spend time with young people. Hopefully, our time together will offer a perspective that might be helpful to their overall health, and their treatment of other students.
The topic is suicide. Suicide is a final act of desperation, or the final consequence of disease. Sometimes, in a fit of passion or rage, a person will take their life. More often, untreated depression leads to death.
Mental illness is generally very treatable. Seeking treatment for a disease of the mind should be no different than seeking treatment for a disease of the body. None of us would think of treating cancer on our own. Foolish is the person who breaks their leg, and decides to just let it heal on its own.
While there is rarely judgement toward those who struggle against cancer or heart disease, there is often judgment and a social stigma associated with mental illness. When those who are suffering are afraid to get help, the result is often death.
We are in the midst of a crisis in our country. Suicide rates in the United States are at a 30-year high, drug and alcohol addiction affects one ten, and more people die of drug overdoses than gun violence or car accidents. Researcher Brene Brown puts it this way, “We are the most in-debt, obese, addicted, and medicated adult cohort in U.S. History.”
Though you may not recognize it, given the health and vitality of TLC, the Christian Church has experienced a marked decline in the past 40 years. Parents are choosing not to bring their children to church. Parents are choosing not to worship with their children. One hour a week seems like too much. Even though recent studies have shown that the average person in the United States now spends more time (8 hours and 40 minutes) on their phones and laptops than they do sleeping each day.
Where else are we going to hear that we are loved, forgiven, and never alone? Where else are we going to experience a community that will love and accept us as we are? Where else will we find a safe place to cry, to be broken, to be healed, to glean the wisdom of older generations, and to serve the world?
Very little is random in this world. There is a strong correlation between our life choices and our quality of life. Every decision we make brings with it intended and unintended consequences.