What’s behind the explosion in youth suicide?
‘Why?’ was the agonized question on many minds in a rural district of Victoria, Australia, after 20 of their youth under 23 years old had suicided within 19 months. The same year, a major Queensland newspaper headlined suicide as ‘A Teen Epidemic’, asking ‘what is happening to our lovely young people?’1
From 1985 to 1995, 400 Australians died of AIDS; by contrast 20,000 killed themselves in this, the so-called ‘lucky country’. Currently, more die each year from suicide than in road accidents,2 with ages 15–24 featuring prominently.
Even more staggering, for every suicide, an estimated 30 or so more have made the attempt. In addition, many ‘road accidents’ are really suicides—motor vehicles are often used for self-execution.
Similar increases (Australia’s rate has doubled in the past 20 years) can be seen in all once-Christian Western nations. In California, a 1995 report to a School District board indicated that one in four students questioned had seriously contemplated suicide.’3
What has caused this surge in suicide in the young, who should be standing at the brink of opportunity and challenge?4 It can easily be linked to the collapse of the social ethic of Christianity, as the evolutionary onslaught undermined its logical (Genesis) foundations, while the Church either ignored or compromised with this philosophy.
The generation of educators trained after the tragic Second World War was ripe for ideologies to ‘improve’ an obviously flawed society. Evolution, not widely ‘pushed’ till then, implied that social values did not come from a Creator on high, so were as changeable as everything else. The new fashion in academia, blind to the link between Darwinism and Nazism, was left-leaning humanism (‘evolution means we set our own rules’), virtuously spreading its evolutionary ‘enlightenment’ to hasten the collapse of the old order.
Thus the generations following have been increasingly indoctrinated in the belief that they simply evolved from slime, in a process of millions of years of death and accident, neither resembling nor requiring purposeful Design.
Therefore the Bible seems discredited in their eyes; and if nothing ‘out there’ is needed to explain nature, then there is no absolute yardstick ‘out there’ for morals and values apart from your own opinion. ‘Doing your own thing’ logically follows.
Though adolescents have always tended to test the limits of parental standards, now they absorb the constant message that standards are only (changeable) opinions. Young colts may enjoy jumping the corral fence, but when that fence is shifting and unstable, there is confusion and anxiety as never before.
Where evolution is seen as ‘fact’, and Christians fail to logically defend their faith (1 Peter 3:15) against such attacks, churches muttering about standards can never get far, because theirs is seen as ‘just another opinion’. Only where there is reliable revelation from the One who made everything (and thus owns everyone) can you claim that standards are absolute, and apply to all.
Believing you represent a long chain of evolutionary accidents means that you have no reason, purpose, or meaning for your existence. You are born, live for a while, then die—that’s it in the evolutionary universe (if you’re lucky, you might get recycled as organic manure). Why not blow your brains out if things get tough?
Other risk factors
Dr John Tiller, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne, has listed three more risk factors for youth suicide, apart from illness.5 Each is affected by evolutionary thinking in society.
1. Substance abuse
Drug-taking means higher suicide risk. With the rise of the ‘evolution is a fact’ mentality, many more youths are turning to drugs. If we’re just chemicals, why not turn to chemicals to ease the pain of meaninglessness and rejection? Who is to say in any absolute sense that it is wrong? I have seen young drug-takers who know that they are likely ‘frying’ their brain, but continue anyway. Why not, if you’re not created in God’s image, and so your brain has no more ultimate value than the (likewise randomly evolved) back leg of a blowfly?
2. Gender uncertainty
Youngsters with doubts about their sexual roles and orientation are at higher suicide risk.
Because we have allowed the Genesis foundation for man-woman marriage—the literal creation of Adam and Eve referred to by Jesus—to be eroded, there is no longer any absolute basis for saying that it is wrong for a man to ‘marry’ a man, or whatever. Relative morality has opened the gates for the homosexual lobby to promote its aberrations as a viable choice.
Recently the principal of a Christian school in South Australia shared with me that the most common and heart-rending question from his young male pupils was ‘what does it mean to be a man?’
Proper role models are vital to help adolescents integrate their sexual awareness and self-identity in a normal, healthy way. The increasing perception that male–female distinctions are just fuzzy, increasingly blurred categories (reinforced by popular images such as Michael Jackson, Boy George and others) is a major burden at this crucial life stage. It means greater risk of adopting a homosexual lifestyle; it may cause fear of a homosexual propensity, when none exists. No wonder more are suiciding from this cause.
3. Low social (especially family) support
As our nations have abandoned Genesis and embraced evolution, the same consequences have hit family life everywhere. ‘We’re all just evolved animals struggling for survival’ means selfishness is increasingly the norm (‘rights’, not responsibilities). No absolute (Genesis) definition for marriage/family means no absolute authority structures, and marriage itself. Families have been increasingly stressed, with many break-ups, and less time or motivation to care about and listen to the struggles of offspring.
It is not as if hordes of youngsters consciously decide ‘evolution is true so I’m ending it’. They themselves may not know why they find the inner pain and meaninglessness so much more acute than their grandparents did, but the background reasons described are crucial nonetheless.
Swimming in a cultural sea, we cannot help being buffeted by strong currents. Ironically, a youngster may believe in creation, yet be unwittingly affected by background evolutionary assumptions in the thinking absorbed from peers. If we truly care for our children, we need to understand why our entire culture is being transformed by evolutionism.
At root, it is the same old problem that began it all—sin—rebellion against God’s authority as Creator. But why is its expression worsening? Because evolution has become its ‘scientific’ justification. However, Christians can still have a major impact on society; those actively arming and equipping themselves and their children to understand, logically defend and utilize the vital, foundational truths of Genesis are continually experiencing the positive results.
References and notes
- Sunday Mail (Brisbane), 23 August 1992, p. 47. The same newspaper on 11 February 1996 (p. 47) said that ‘Australian teenagers are killing themselves a the rate of one every 48 hours. Suicides among young males are up alarmingly—more than 60 percent since the 1970s’.
- Youth suicide: the nation's taboo tragedy, The Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 7 October 1995.
- San Diego Union-Tribune, 22 February 1995.
- Organic or biochemically based mental illness (largely from inherited mutations), though an important cause of suicide, does not merit consideration here; its frequency would not suddenly double. The socio-cultural factors discussed later in this article may of course affect individuals already so disposed from such underlying illness.
- John Tiller, Youth Suicide—Identifying the Risks, Drivetime Medical Education #22, 1995. Unemployment does not feature; the Great Depression of the 1930s did not cause anything like this.