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Believing Parents Reduce Kids’ Suicide Risk

Study links spirituality at home to better mental health for children

A child’s suicide risk has a lot to do with what his or her parents believe about God, a recently published study suggests.

Kids and teens whose parents have strongly held religious beliefs are 80 percent less likely to contemplate or attempt suicide, compared with offspring of parents who say religion is unimportant to them. Researchers at the New York Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, who conducted the longitudinal family study over three generations, reported that the trend held even after accounting for known risk factors, such as suicidal behavior, divorce, and family history of mental illness.

The reduced suicide risk was also independent of the child’s personal religious beliefs or church attendance. While personal spirituality and religious service attendance further decreased the suicide risk for girls, this was not the case for boys. The children and adolescents in the study ranged in age from 6 to 18.

Sixteen percent of high school students in the U.S. have seriously considered suicide.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. for children and young adults aged 10 to 24, claiming the lives of 4,600 young people annually. Emergency rooms treat some 157,000 patients in that age range each year for self-inflicted injuries. And 16 percent of high school students in the U.S. have seriously considered suicide.

This study serves as a reminder that suicide prevention begins at home — and at church. Reaching families with the life-giving gospel message and equipping parents to pass on the truths of Scripture to their children can make all the difference.


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