by Dr. Heather Kuruvilla
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US, and is the most common cause of death after cancer and heart disease. The most recent statistics for suicide compiled by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention show a yearly increase in the number of suicides every year since 2000. In 2013, someone in the US died from suicide every 12.8 minutes.
Suicide is always tragic, and is also preventable. It is estimated that over 90% of people who commit suicide were suffering from mental illness at the time of their death. Depression is the mental illness most often correlated with suicide, though bipolar disorder and other personality disorders may also play a role.
Underdiagnosis of mental illness likely plays a key role in suicides, which means that health care professionals can help prevent this tragedy. Treating persons holistically, recognizing the interdependence of physical and mental well-being, is of crucial importance.
As Christians, we recognize the impact that the Fall and the Curse have on all of creation. Certainly the whole person is subject to disease, both physical and mental. Genetic and epigenetic mutations, biochemical disorders, and anatomical dysfunctions will plague mankind until the Lord’s return. If we wish to alleviate suffering, we need to wisely steward all of the tools at our disposal, including counseling, pharmaceuticals, and human interaction.
For too long, sufferers of mental illness have felt stigmatized, often not reaching out for needed treatments. This needs to stop. A holistic view of personhood can truly make a difference.