Because of the large number of students on grounds at Falls Creek each summer, the student ministry office of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) takes the opportunity to survey several of them on various biblical and life issues.
This is the final report of a series of articles that share some of the information gathered from surveys conducted in the summer of 2017. The intention of the articles is to challenge churches and leaders to help students mature in their faith and walk with Jesus.
Previous surveys were reported in the Oct. 26 edition (The Bible), the Nov. 2 edition (Cultural influence) and the Nov. 9 edition (Senior pastors) of the Baptist Messenger.
On March 31, Netflix released the series “13 Reasons Why,” which began a national discussion on the proper way to address the epidemic of suicide in our country. The series was highly criticized by many for the glamorization and graphic depiction of a teenager taking her own life. The criticisms were justifiable, especially in light of the problem our society faces in regard to suicide.
In the last 40 years, youth suicide rates have more than tripled. More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza and chronic lung disease combined.
The percentage of high school students (9-12th grade) who seriously considered suicide declined from 1991-2009, but has risen each year since 2009, according to the Center for Disease Control’s 2015 Youth Risk Behavioral Survey. According to that 2015 study, 1 out of 6 has seriously considered suicide, and 1 out of 12 has attempted suicide. Based on these national statistics, of the 334,728 Oklahoma Middle School and High School students, 28,855 will attempt suicide this year.
In the summer of 2017, a Suicide Prevention breakout was offered at Falls Creek. Approximately 1,400 students and leaders attended the breakout, which was held each Tuesday and Wednesday of camp. At that breakout, we surveyed students with a few questions about how closely suicide had affected them. Here are the results:
(1,347 people surveyed)
Do you know anyone who has considered suicide? YES—90 percent; NO—10 percent
Do you know someone who has attempted suicide or taken their life by suicide? YES—77 percent; NO—23 percent
Have you ever considered killing yourself? YES—49 percent; NO—51 percent
Have you ever attempted to kill yourself? YES—21 percent; NO—79 percent
It is absolutely alarming that more than 1 in 5 students indicated they had actually attempted suicide. This is a clarion call for help, to which the church must respond.
Students need to know that their life is valuable and that God created them with a glorious plan and purpose. No longer can the church be content dealing with this issue in the aftermath of death. We must build fences at the top of the cliff instead of continually doing triage at the bottom of it.
Churches must host suicide prevention clinics and seminars to build awareness and train people for intervention. Youth pastors need to build strong relationships and student networks to better monitor potential situations. Church leaders need to partner with schools to address this issue on a broad scale and to alert students as to where they can receive counseling and help.
Prov. 14:27 says, “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death.”
As the people of God we are guardians of the Gospel message, which is the key to life. We cannot be silent as death has its way with a generation. We must listen to the voices of those in peril and speak of the One who gives us abundant life and generously sustains it.