Losing faith in God and declining religiosity are among the top reasons why young adults in America are increasingly committing suicide, according to the conservative Family Policy Institute of Washington.
The nonprofit organization explored the cultural conversations that the Netflix teen drama "13 Reasons Why" has stirred in recent months, and noted that teen suicide is a real and growing issue in America.
The show, based on the novel of the same name, explores the life and suicide of a high schooler named Hannah Baker, detailing 13 reasons why she chose to kill herself.
Blaine Conzatti, a columnist and research fellow at the FPIW, wrote in an article last week: "Many young adults are turning to suicide as an escape from the pressures of life. From 2000 to 2015, the suicide rate increased 27 percent among those aged 20 to 35 (the U.S. average suicide rate among all age groups increased by almost 21 percent during the same time period)."
"Washington State's suicide rate is 16 percent higher than the national average," he added, citing statistics from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Conzatti doesn't agree with many experts who cite increased economic hardship and inadequate mental health services for the recent rise in suicide. He noted that "life on earth has never been better" and that there has been an increase in mental health funding over recent decades.
He instead pointed to cultural shifts, specifically offering four important reasons why suicide has been on the rise.
"Young Americans have increasingly disconnected from religious institutions over the last few decades, choosing instead to live according to their own 'personalized spirituality' or rejecting religion entirely," he pointed out, citing "decreased religiosity."
He referred to Pew Research Center statistics from 2015 that showed that only 28 percent of millennials born between 1981 and 1996 attend religious services weekly; with younger millennials also less likely to believe in God, and only 38 percent considering religion to be an important part of their lives.
"Unfortunately, by eschewing involvement in religious communities, millennials sacrifice the kinship and solidarity those communities provide. Religion helps provide meaning to life, and religious communities equip individuals with the relationships and support necessary to withstand life's treacherous seas," Conzatti said.
He linked to another study by the American Journal of Psychiatry, which found that religiously unaffiliated individuals had "significantly more lifetime suicide attempts," and concluded that "subjects with no religious affiliation perceived fewer reasons for living, particularly fewer moral objections to suicide."
The other three main reasons for the increased suicide rate that the FPIW research fellow identified include delayed marriage, increased worker mobility, and adopting a postmodernist viewpoint — which positions that life is meaningless and truth is unknowable.
Delaying marriage means individuals forfeit benefits such as financial security, greater emotional and psychological well-being and overall better health, he argued. Also, moving often for work has been linked to higher levels of stress, crime, and poor health, and it causes individuals to be detached from communities.
"There is no easy fix. Reversing the trend depends on effectively confronting the lies accepted by culture and society fueling hopelessness and social disorganization. We must also work to ensure our communities can successfully provide for the material, emotional, and spiritual needs of their members," Conzatti concluded.
A host of Christian speakers whose ministries reach out to teenagers, such as Greg Stier, founder and president of Dare 2 Share Ministries International, have warned about suicide in the discussion surrounding the controversial Netflix show.
Stier offered his list of "13 Reasons Why Suicide Is the Worst Option," arguing that teenagers need to turn to God, who can provide a way out of the trauma they are going through.