More than 44,000 people take their own lives each year, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death in America. But despite its prevalence, it is something that is rarely talked about.
And among people of faith, there is often a stigma associated with suicide, as the common assumption was that one who committed the grave sin of suicide could not enter into heaven. However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly tells us that we must not presume to know the state of one who has taken their own life:
We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to Him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives – Catechism of the Catholic Church #2283
Leticia Ochoa Adams is a Catholic writer whose son, Anthony, committed suicide just 10 weeks ago. She stopped by The Patrick Madrid Show recently to share Anthony’s story and open up the conversation about suicide and those it affects. Below are some excerpts from her powerful interview:
On why she wants to share Anthony’s story…
I’ve gotten so many messages and cards from people who have said, ‘My brother committed suicide, and we didn’t feel that we could talk about it as Catholics.’ Most importantly, I want to be able to tell other Catholics that this is something that affects all kinds of families. I just want other people to know that this is a serious issue and it is OK to talk about it. I see so many people who don’t talk about it or don’t explain that their loved one died by suicide.
And I understand that not everyone is as unfiltered as I am, but I think it is important to talk about it for the children who are facing these struggles – so they don’t feel so alone and so the parents aren’t too scared to talk to them.
On the prevalence of suicide among young people…
This generation is very nihilistic – they don’t understand hope at all. They have no concept of what hope is or how to find hope. They’re a very self-reliant, nihilistic generation, and that is a recipe for disaster. Because they depend on themselves, and we know that as Catholics we can’t depend on ourselves, we have to depend on God. Depending on ourselves is always going to leave us feeling restless, and hopeless, and we’re always going to fail because we’re human. We have to put our hope in God, because it is very easy to lose hope in life.
On spiritual warfare and mental illness…
Even when we converted to Catholicism, Anthony didn’t have this sense of seeking God that I saw in that notebook that he wrote the morning before he committed suicide. I am 100% convinced that there was also a spiritual element to all of this. Not that the devil made him do it. He made a free choice, and God gave him that free choice, so whatever his culpability is in that God only knows. But I do believe there was a spiritual warfare component to all of it, just simply because I had never seen my son that open or that directed toward God before, ever.
He was battling depression, and from what I understand from a lot of other people who have similar bouts of ups and downs, it was that he was really, really down, but he had the energy of coming back up. So he had a lot of energy, but he had a lot of depression. So those two things are the most dangerous things, because he had a lot of energy to do something, but he had the depression that told him, ‘You’re not going to be able to do any of this.’ And that’s where I feel like the voice of the Evil One came in. Because we all know that the Evil One is the accuser and he knows how to play on those weaknesses. And that’s where I think the spiritual warfare comes in.
On the importance of being open to help…
He was a good kid. My son was a great, amazing person. … But it’s very hard to get past on your own. Anthony was trying to do all of this on his own, and that’s just a battle that we’re not going to win. We’re not going to win a battle of the will against depression, mental illness, and the Evil One all at once. We’re not capable of doing that. We need a lot of help and a lot of support, and a lot more than what Anthony was willing to be open to. I think by the time he was open to it, it was obviously a little too late.
On moving forward…
God is good. He’s always good, and He’s always going to do what He can to take care of us, and He loves my son more than I love my son. I don’t understand how that works, but it’s true, and I know it’s true. He gave Anthony free will, and Anthony used it how he used it in the midst of a battle with mental illness. … I know that I can trust that God is good, He is just, and He is merciful. So I pray for my son and I trust in that.
I do have moments where I kick around what happened, what did he think, what was going on, why did he do that, but for the most art I’ve tried to focus on what I know. And what I know is that God is good, He is just, and He is merciful. My son is in His hands, and that is the best place my son can be.
Listen to the full interview below, and hear Leticia answer listener calls here.
The Patrick Madrid Show airs weekdays from 6:00 – 9:00 a.m. Pacific on Immaculate Heart Radio.