Deaths of Despair

I just learned a new category of population statistics: “deaths of despair.” The term refers to deaths caused by an overdose of drugs, suicides, and diabetes, among other things.

The idea is that people have given up on the idea of living a productive life. The despair behind suicides is obvious; drug overdoses are rare among well-adjusted people. Even diabetes is seen as a failure to care for oneself by keeping to a healthy weight.

Placid middle-class Christians may find these problems remote. But the statistics in this case don’t lie: there are lots of people all around us who are doing themselves harm.

The only good thing in all this is that our religion offers ways to counter dark emotions. Faith offers something to live for; hope is an antidote to self-destructiveness; and love brings light to every life. All the more reason to try to do whatever we can to reach out to those in danger of deaths of despair. —J. Douglas Ousley

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