I want to make something clear right now, the point of this article is to be helpful and hopeful. Suicide is not a laughing matter and this article is not intended to make light of it.
It’s necessary to discuss difficult topics to grow our minds and find truth. If you are reading this article because you are considering suicide, please seek help immediately.
Young people are killing themselves
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people age 10-24. This statistic should shock us, but the culture that surrounds us has left us desensitized to this horror.
I was surprised to find that suicide wasn’t the #1 cause of death for young people. When you look at divorce rates, music, TV shows, abortion, school environments, social media, pornography, and everything else than constantly bombards young people from the moment they’re born, it’s not really surprising to see hopelessness and despair rising.
40% – 50% of marriages end in divorce. Children of divorce develop PTSD.
Basically, half of children have gone through a couple tours of Afghanistan without ever leaving the “comfort” of their home.
There are two points I want to make in this article. First, it is not our place to judge those who kill themselves. Second, life is worth living.
The Catholic view of suicide
What does the Catechism say about suicide?
Let’s start with the Catechism.
“Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.” – CCC 2280
“Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing the suicide.” – CCC 2282
“We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.” – CCC 2283
Is suicide a mortal sin?
Many in the Church approach suicide with finality. It is a mortal sin against the 5th commandment and therefore those who commit suicide go to Hell.
While it is true that the Church’s teachings say that those who die in un-repented mortal sin will go to Hell, the Church is also very clear that there are factors which lessen or “mitigate” a person’s culpability for their sin, even mortal sin.
“For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: ‘Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.‘” – CCC 1857
“Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice.” – CCC 1859
It is estimated that 90% of people who take their own lives have a mental health condition. This could be depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, or substance abuse.
In these cases, it does not appear that the Catholic criteria for mortal sin is met. If mortal sin “implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice,” then committing suicide alongside an accompanying mental illness would seriously beg the question: was it a choice?
Mental disorders are not the only thing that can impair our ability to choose freely. As the Catechism states, “grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing the suicide.”
We are never fully aware of the internal experience of those around us, even loved ones. It is never for us to make the judgment that someone who killed themselves “could have chosen differently.”
Suicide, as the objective act of taking your own life, is a mortal sin. However, we always have hope that God, in His infinite mercy, sees the plight of those who kill themselves, and responds with compassion and love. Again, the Catechism says, “the Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.”
Am I suicidal?
I went to a Catholic psychologist in my early twenties. I was surprised when he told me my testing had revealed a suicide risk.
I never considered myself as someone who would even contemplate suicide. I had some serious issues I was dealing with, but I never imagined that it could get so bad that I could kill myself.
When he told me that the testing showed some markers for suicide, at first I laughed it off.
As I thought about it though, I realized that if my current mental and emotional anguish had continued without help, I very well could have reached a level of depression and anxiety that made death more appealing than life.
Suicide is not something to write-off because “I would never do that.” All around you right now are people who are hurting. In some cases they are hurting enough to consider death as a relief rather than an evil.
Hope in the face of suicide
This video from Fr. Mike Schmitz is hopeful and powerful. It lays out the reason why life is worth living.
Those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts need real help. They need someone to help them navigate their inner storm and manage their disordered emotions.
As Catholics, we are called to have compassion for others and for ourselves. The answer to the suffering of those around us should never simply be “deal with it.”
Just as Jesus comes down into our suffering to be with us, so we must do our best to meet those who are suffering where they need our help.
If you or anyone you know are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please seek help from your local priest or a Catholic psychologist in your area. There are many online resources for those seeking help with suicide.
Always remember, your life is worth living. You are worth loving. There is never a point where death is the better alternative. No matter where you are, no matter what you’ve been through, there is a God who made you and loves you and is calling you to Him right now, in this moment.
Don’t give up. There is always hope. You are loved.