US Army reports pre-existing risk to suicide among ranks, and mega-church Pastor Rick Warren would like more attention for mental health.
As the Army found out recently through the Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS), according to this week's edition of the JAMA Psychiatry Journal, Mental Health is equal opportunity and is far from prejudice, and is not just related to experiences one gains in the Army. It can affect anyone, and on average 1 out of 5 enlistees came to the Army with some form of mental illness before they enlisted. More active duty American soldiers now die from suicide than from combat. A 2012 Dept. of Veterans Affairs study found that 22 veterans on average kill themselves each day, totaling more than 8,000 a year. The STARRS report found that around eleven percent of Army soldiers likely met criteria for two mental health disorders prior to enlistment.
The sad truth is that mental Illness and suicide finds a way into all ranks of life, not just the Army.
If averages hold, around 35,000 Americans will kill themselves in 2014.
According to a recent Gallup study, Religious nations commit suicide at a slower rate than non-religious countries. Around a million people worldwide will kill themselves this year, but unfortunately still many of them will be Christians. How does Suicide and Mental Illness permeate so many facets of our life? How does it still affect those who know the grace and love of Christ?
People like Pastor Rick Warren believe the church should do more to find out and hopefully prevent it.
First the church must recognize that there is a problem and be willing to deal with it. Many Christians report not feeling comfortable talking about mental health issues with other believers. As a body, we must recognize the light our truthful discussions can bring. We should not be quick to judge mental health issues, and we should do more than patronize the sufferer.
It has long been known that a person who talks about suicide with someone is less likely to do it. A person isolated in his pain is much more likely to follow through on suicidal thoughts.
Pastor Warren is leading his congregation at Saddleback to take notice, and lend an ear, and a memory.
He is trying to turn a well-documented tragedy that struck his family April 8th of last year, into something that reflects the grace and mercy of God. Last spring his adult son Matthew, who suffered from Mental Health Issues and hidden suicidal ideations for many years, took his own life, and Pastor Warren wants to put mental health issues in front of Christians around the world in honor of Matthew and other sufferers.
He is hoping to bring attention to the problems of people suffering from mental illness, in the belief that when he does, more people will speak out and form support groups to help one another.
The best-selling author of "The Purpose Driven Life" will co-host a daylong conference titled "The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church" on March 28, focusing on mental health. He is hoping many attend and learn, and the Church looks at the real threat that is hiding close to all of us.
Pastor Warren says that more than 10,000 people wrote to him after his son's death and reported suffering from some form of Mental Illness.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange and the National Alliance on Mental Illness are co-sponsoring the event.
For Suicide prevention counseling and information, call 1-800-SUI-CIDE. (784-2433)