Ray Comfort, the founder of Living Waters ministry and the author of more than 90 books, is co-host of the award-winning television program "Way of the Master."
He produced the movie "180," which shows abortion supporters doing a "180" literally in minutes. He's debated, evangelized and made friends with atheists. His books include "How to Know God Exists," "The Evidence Bible," "Hitler, God and the Bible," "You Can Lead An Atheist to Evidence, But You Can't Make Him Think," "Nothing Created Everything" and "God Doesn't Believe in Atheists."
Comfort, who has written a book on the topic of suicides by celebrities, "The Final Curtain," told WND he's been "greatly concerned for years over the epidemic of suicides, not only in our nation, but around the world."
He noted the CDC reported in June 2020 that 25 million Americans were seriously considering committing suicide.
"Suicide and depression were already at epidemic levels, and with the nationwide lockdowns, they’re only getting worse. And now domestic abuse, drug and alcohol problems, and anxiety (especially among children) are skyrocketing," he said.
"When a nation rejects God (or gives Him lip-service) or gives itself to atheism, it leaves itself with no hope in death," he said. "We have a generation who have been told that they are the product of a random explosion in space—that they are primates with no rhyme nor reason to exist."
He said that past generations "had a semblance of the fear of God, knew the Ten Commandments, and consequently had some sort of hope in their death."
"But this godless generation is utterly hopeless. They need what the Bible calls a 'living hope' that will give them a reason to exist and to want to hold onto their precious lives. That’s why they need the gospel. It will give them that," he said.
To that end, he had the idea of distributing books that offer hope in troubled times, launching what he calls the Combo Book Giveaway.
He's raising the funds for a quarter million copies of "Solving the God Puzzle" by Tom Hammond and his own "Counting the Days."
Calling it one of the "most exciting projects" his ministry ever launched, he said he will ship boxes of 100 books to applicants for free to hand out to their neighbors.
He was confronted with the problem of how to distribute them to people amid the lockdowns and social distancing. By putting them in plastic door-hanger bags and flinging them onto people's driveways, he found he could do it in a "non-confrontational way."
"Anyone can do this — in your car with your family, on a bike, pulling a cart, or simply while taking your dog for a walk," he explained.
He hopes the books will be ready by April 1
There's evidence for his concern about suicide. The Foundation for Economic Education reported, "School closures, stay-at-home orders, and shutdowns of businesses deemed 'non-essential' are contributing to surging rates of depression and suicide among young people, as well as rising incidences of drug overdoses and related deaths."
In Clark County, Nevada, the home of Las Vegas, 18 students took their lives during the nine months of school closures, the report found. The youngest was just 9 years old.
The New York Times said, "One student left a note saying he had nothing to look forward to."
National numbers aren't available yet for that time period, but "state and county level data reveal dismal trends. In Pima County, Arizona suicides were up 67% in 2020 compared to the previous year for children ages 12 to 17, and statewide childhood suicides had also increased since 2019. West Virginia has seen a spike in student suicide attempts during the pandemic. Parts of Wisconsin reported skyrocketing suicide rates among young people in 2020, while hospitals in Texas and North Carolina are seeing more young suicidal patients," FEE reported.
"CDC data show a 24% increase in emergency room mental health visits for children ages 5 to 11, compared to 2019. Among adolescents ages 12 to 17, that increase is 31%. Last summer, the CDC reported that one in four young adults had contemplated suicide in the previous month."
Even before the pandemic, youth depression and suicide rates were on the rise, the report said. But "the isolation and hopelessness brought on by the pandemic response has exacerbated this trend. Earlier this month, a high school student and football star in Illinois, who had struggled previously with depression, committed suicide. His father says that his son’s 'depression worsened significantly after Covid hit.'"
National Public Radio also reported similar conclusions.
Its report said: "Suicide is complex, involving layers of risk factors, including biological and environmental ones. … But the sudden rise in deaths has school district officials [in Las Vegas] worried that the coronavirus pandemic may have played a role. And educators and mental health care providers in other parts of the United States have the same concern."
"Across the country, we're hearing that there are increased numbers of serious suicidal attempts and suicidal deaths," Dr. Susan Duffy, a professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at Brown University, explained in the report.
"The kids that we are seeing now in the emergency department are really at the stage of maybe even having tried or attempted or have a detailed plan," said Dr. Vera Feuer, director of pediatric emergency psychiatry at Cohen Children's Medical Center of Northwell Health in New York.
And KPCNew.com reported an 873% increase in youth in one region of Indiana in the "high risk" category for suicide.
"February 2020 through December 2020 saw a 92% increase in the number of calls to the Indiana hubs for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, with the highest number of calls coming from youth ages 13-24," the report said. Fifty years of data (1968–2018) shows a 234% increase in suicide mortality rates for Indiana youth ages 15-24.
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