he number of youth in the United States who take their own lives increased by 8 percent in a period of one year, the largest single-year rise in 15 years, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Scott Stevens, director of student ministry at LifeWay Church Resources, told Baptist Press it's not uncommon for youth ministers to hear teenagers voice thoughts of suicide.
"Teens face challenges of many kinds, not to mention the pressures of a performance-based existence where often the only time they feel accepted is when they excel in their performance--in athletics, academics, etc.," Stevens said. "Unfortunately, teen suicide continues to be a permanent 'solution' to what are often painful but temporary problems."
The study, released in September, found that after a 28.5 percent decrease in suicides among people ages 10-24 from 1990 to 2003, rates jumped 8 percent in 2004. Observers say they're not sure whether it's a one-year spike or the start of a trend, according to a report by USA Today.
The most significant increase was found among girls ages 10-14, an age and gender group which saw suicides rise 76 percent from 56 per 100,000 in 2003 to 94 per 100,000 in 2004, the study said. Hanging and suffocation were the most common forms of suicide in that group, accounting for 71.4 percent of the deaths.
"Knowing that every incident is unique, I wouldn't begin to prescribe a universal solution," Chad Childress, director of children's and student evangelism at the North American Mission Board, told BP. "However, the one thing I do know is that every teen must have unconditional love, acceptance and appreciation. I believe those are best found in two spheres of influence.
"First, the home must be the safe haven to unload and find freedom to mess up. Second, a community of friends and adults [is needed to] speak life, purpose and meaning into the lives of their friends," Childress said. "For those of us who call the name of Jesus Christ, we must lead the way, be the influence and proclaim freedom that is found in Christ alone."
Some of the warning signs parents and youth workers can look for include talking about taking one's life, feeling sad or hopeless about the future, changes in eating or sleeping habits, and losing the desire to take part in favorite activities, the lead author of the study said.
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Diocese Asks Priests to Help Pay Abuse Settlement
The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego is asking parishioners and priests to help pay for the nearly $200 million sexual abuse settlement it reached last month.
As part of a new campaign, priests will be asked to contribute one month's salary, estimated at $1,485 to $1,535. Retired priests will be asked to contribute according to their means.
"We cannot ask of others what we are unwilling to do ourselves," San Diego Bishop Robert Brom said in a memo to diocesan priests. The memo was posted online by the San Diego Union-Tribune; a diocesan official confirmed its accuracy.
Parishioners will be asked for "a generous contribution" as well, "to help cover the expense involved in compassionate outreach to our brothers and sisters who suffered sexual abuse within the family of the Church," Brom said.
On September 7, San Diego reached a $198.1 million settlement with 144 victims of sexual abuse, the second-largest such settlement since the explosion of the sex abuse scandal in 2002. The diocese will pay about $107 million of the settlement, and hopes to recoup about $30 million from religious orders.
Mormons Launch PR Campaign After Romney Stirs Interest
Prompted by interest generated by Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is mounting a campaign of its own to help journalists better understand it.
On Tuesday (Oct. 2), two spokespeople for the Salt Lake City-based church hosted the effort's first online news conference -- with religion reporters.
Mike Otterson, a church spokesman, said recent polls have shown a "big knowledge gap" about the Mormon faith. While "polygamy" and "Utah" seem to be the words that come to mind when Americans think of Mormons, he said the practice of multiple wives was disavowed by the church in the 19th century, and only one in eight Mormons live in Utah.
Church leaders are planning meetings with editorial boards, and said additional online news conferences may be held. "How much does it have to do with Romney?" Otterson said in response to a question from Religion News Service. "Frankly, a great deal."
He added that the church draws a "clear and bright line" between political neutrality and any political campaign.
Otterson said a national television network recently posed questions about the church and got answers from a journalist rather than church officials. That journalist, he said, when asked which church was closest to the Mormon faith, responded by saying the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. "You could almost hear the collective jaw dropping from Mormons around the country," he said.
Italian Bishops Buy Soccer Team to Help `Moralize' Sport
In an effort to "moralize" a sport recently beset by scandal, Italy's Roman Catholic bishops have purchased a professional soccer team, announcing plans to raise ethical standards for players, executives and fans.
The Conference of Italian Bishops has acquired an 80-percent interest in AC Ancona, a third-division team in the central Italian city of Ancona.
"It's a way to moralize soccer, to bring back a little bit of ethics into a sector that is undergoing a grave crisis of values," said the archbishop of Ancona, Edoardo Menichelli, to the Turin newspaper La Stampa.
According to the team's new ethics code, players who commit fouls will be required to perform volunteer work as part of their punishment, ticket prices will be lowered, team profits will go to support relief projects in developing nations, and spectators must promise not to insult rival fans or to display offensive banners.
Stadium violence at soccer games has been an increasing problem in Italy. In February, the death of a policeman at a match in Sicily led the Italian soccer federation to suspend play nationwide. The sport has also been plagued by the bribing of referees. In 2006, Ancona's former president was sentenced to jail in a game-fixing scandal that involved several of the country's top teams.