“Healer of Our Every Ill” (ELW 612) has a chorus of words, “Healer of our every ill, light of each tomorrow, give us peace beyond our fear, and hope beyond our sorrow.” In this pandemic time, this hymn is prescient.
Millions are ill and tens of thousands have died. We in the United States are facing a scale of national mobilization akin to WWII. The coronavirus is the dominant topic on cable news. All ages are affected by this silent, virulent virus. Yesterday the stock market plummeted by a record dive of nearly 3,000 points. Congress is proposing significant financial supports. Worship times are cancelled or going virtual, restaurants are closing, and businesses are closing or going under. And people are buying guns and ammunition to protect themselves and homes from intrusions.
The NIH states that a gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used for homicide, accidental deaths and suicide than self defense. A gun in the home doubles the risk of homicide and triples the risk of suicide according to a study by the Annals of Internal Medicine. Suicide by gun is the number one method according to the NIMH with males committing suicide four times that of females. The rate of suicide is 66% more in rural areas than in metropolitan areas. The American Psychological Association accounts for the sharp rise in rural suicides as the loss of farming and manufacturing jobs.
Why can Covid-19 lead to increased suicides by gun? Consider the dynamics of this pandemic which are parallel with causes of suicide. According to the Mayo Clinic, suicide causes include withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone (social distancing), mood swings, feeling trapped and hopeless, being severely anxious or agitated. The American Psychological Association lists depression, physical health conditions, stressful life events and despair. Suicide.org lists negative life experiences, serious loss of job or house or financial means, serious illness, loss of hope and helplessness.
If we have a gun in our home, and if the causes of suicide are parallel with Covid-19 forces, what can we do? 1) One person was experiencing a rough patch in his life. As a gun owner, he removed his guns from his home until he was feeling better; 2) Give your guns to a friend until the stress has passed; 3) Install gun locks or cable loops on your weapons; 4) Unload your guns and store guns and ammunition in separate lock boxes; 5) Call your local, state or national suicide hotline. (These suggestions come from WebMD, CBS Chicago, Kid’s Health, Childsafe and the NRA); 6) As Christians, talk with your pastor, family members, a close friend or a counselor; 7) In all cases, make the gun less accessible; 8) Consider not buying a gun.
The reality is that a gun in the home, particularly in times of high stress, increases the possibility of tragedy. Furthermore, suicide by gun is nearly 100% final. We need to give ourselves time to work through this stressful time. David Hemenway of Harvard University says “If we can get people through the first 25 minutes of a suicidal moment, 90% of these people die of something else.” We need to give ourselves time to heal, time to work through the stressful moments, time to settle into hope instead of despair.
Jesus is our Ultimate Healer. Jesus frees us to act responsibly to facilitate healing for others and for ourselves. Ephesians 5:8-14 proclaims: “For once you were in darkness, but now in the Lord, you are light. Live as children of the light, for the fruits of light is what is good and right and true. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness….”
In Hope and Healing,
Rev. Dr. Ron Letnes