Suicide is not a new problem. Samson took his life so as to avenge his enemies in the process. Yet Samson made the list in Hebrews 11 of those “who had by faith obtained an excellent repute.” Saul too took his life rather than be tortured and killed by his enemies. Likewise his armor-bearer killed himself. Abimelech committed suicide because he assumed he was mortally wounded. He did not wish it said that he had been killed by a woman. Ahithophel committed suicide in a rather orderly fashion after his counsel had been rejected by Absalom.

In the New Testament, we find Judas Iscariot, overcome with guilt, taking his life. The very center of Christian faith is the One who said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Christ permitted his own death so that he might abolish death and bring life to his followers.

The World Health Organization estimates that each day an average of at least 1,000 persons commit suicide. And a conservative estimate of the ratio of attempted suicide to achieved suicide is eight to one. Norway, Holland, Ireland, and Spain are countries with low suicide rates throughout the twentieth century. Switzerland, Austria, and Denmark have persistently high rates, while both Canada and the United States have consistently been in the middle range. Canada’s rate was 8.6 per 100,000 persons, in 1966. In recent years the rate in the United States has been 10 or 11 per 100,000. That is, about 25,000 Americans kill themselves annually. Suicide is the tenth most common cause of death for all Americans. It is in fourth place among teen-agers and second place among college students.

Factors that have shown a statistical correlation with a high rate of suicide include being divorced ...

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