Jehovah's Witness / ex-JW Suicide Rate?

by Simon 57 Replies latest watchtower medical

  • Bugbear

    Here is a link to some that think he knows what he´s talking about:

  • LisaRose

    I think it's impossible to know if the suicide rate is higher among Jehovah's Witnesses. I personally knew of quite a few, more than six, including a family member who attempted, which seems high, but anecdotal accounts don't equal actual statistics, as we all know.

    The things they do that might tend to contribute to a higher suicide rate

    • All or nothing, black or white thinking, you are either "whole souled" for Jehovah or bird food at Armageddon.
    • Disfellowshipping policies that cut people off from family and friends
    • Distrust of psychological counseling
    • Policy of discouraging higher education and the cascading effect of lack of job opportunities, less access to health care and stress due to lower incomes.

    Things which might mitigate the above:

    • Social support as long as you are not disfellowshiped.
    • Psychological boost because of believing you have all the answers and won't be affected by the world's problems.
    • Belief that suicide is a sin and will prevent you from a resurrection.

    It's hard for me to see how they couldn't have a higher than average suicide rate, but I can't really say I'm impartial on the topic.

  • ScenicViewer

    Watchtower's disfellowshipping policy, which isolates people, leaving them completely cut off from their social group, is a contributor to suicide. Watchtower admits admits that isolation is deadly but never applies it to their own shunning policy....

    And the consequences? “I know of no more potent killer than isolation. . . . It has been shown to be a central agent in the etiology [starting cause] of depression, paranoia, schizophrenia, rape, suicide, mass murder, and a wide variety of disease states.”—Psychology Today, August 1980.

    Awake 5-22-1983 p15 (Bold added)

    Former friends, and especially family, refusing to have anything to do with you must be the worst kind of isolation there is.

  • Simon
    Here is a link to some that think he knows what he´s talking about

    But it's just empty claims with anecdotes, no hard figures or data showing what it's based on. Like so many other comments, it takes a snippet like "isolation is harmful and can lead to suicide", combines it with the isolation due to some WTS policies and then makes an assumption on the numbers involved ("it must be high").

    As much as I think some would love the WTS to be guilty of causing the suicide of thousands through disfellowshipping and shunning, I've yet to see any firm evidence that there is really that many.

    If the disfellowshipping rate is 1% and the suicide rate for the general population is 0.15% then would we be looking for greater than 13,500+ suicides per year for that to be the case?

    90,000 disfellowshipped per year? Even that feels high ... (back to the roughly 1 per cong. per year?)

    Damn, I think I need a calculator, my math ability may be going to shit ...

  • Londo111

    I think hundreds of thousands for the blood issue is perhaps too high. Certainly tens of thousands have though.

    As for suicides, I wonder if one examines a like group with similar conditions where studies have been done. It would be easy to extrapolate.

  • TD

    This is the closest I could come:

    JW's & Mental Illness

    I don't have a copy of Bergman's book, as it was (among other things) insanely expensive



    I feel your pain. Were it not for my child, I wouldn't mind checking out some days. Why am I here? Just to pay bills and never achieve my dreams? What are my dreams? I don't even know, because I'm so f***ed up by being a JW. Everything I think is filtered through a jacked-up lense, courtesy of the WTBTS cult.

    I'm just wasting time, waiting to die.


  • steve2

    I've come to this worthwhile discussion late. I'm pleased that the "research" by "Havor Montague" (real name, Jerry Bergman) had not been cited.

    In the late 70s - early 80s JB made some claims that JWs had rates of mental illness up to 30% higher than the general population. He based this on his observations when he was in the organization. Unfortunately, he did not conduct any scientifically rigorous comparative studies - and did not even define his key terms such as "mental illness". And he left open the definition of JW (thisvis trivky because donyou include every single person known to have had some contact with a JWs such as going to meetings).

    JB claimed to have a PhD and called himself a psychologist - but readers could be forgiven for wondering about his competence as a researcher. He used research language but his stories were almost all anecdotal.

    Besides, he appeared intent on blaming the organization for the so-called increase in mental illness rates among JWs, never once considering alternate explanations (e.g., if the rates of mental illness were higher, alternate explanations could include: Mentally ill people are more attracted to the JWs message than non- mentally ill people/they were already mentally ill before they converted to the organization or the stress of belonging to a disliked group could contribute ("persecution" by nonWitnesses causes higher rates, etc) . None of these hypotheses are necessarily correct - but researchers keep an open mind, recognising that correlation does not necessarily equal causation .

    Which brings me to the topic of suicidality among ex-JWs: again, if rates of suicide are higher than in the general population, causality is quite a separate and vexed topic. For example, for some individuals group membership is protective against suicide such as people who claim be coming a Witness saved them from suicide.

    A book called "Why Christians Crack-up" was published several years ago. It suggested that Christians in general might be more prone to mental illness. But it too lacked scientific rigor and was largely anecdotal. And yes it never looked at alternative explanations for any claimed higher incidence.

  • Bugbear


    You are quite right as you said: But it's just empty claims with anecdotes….

    Being associated with JW:s for over 40 years and in close connections to 4 diff. congregations I have only heard of two very concrete cases where there is no doubt was suicide. But then again, what is very truly suicide? One elder about 55 years of age, with many children…taking his car in the middle of the night with no security belts, driving into a mountain face in 120 km/hour??? Or a young pioneer whit a motorbike driving from a bridge into a river with just about the same speed…? Those cases were not considered as suicide, even though the insurance company insisted on it…

  • Ruby456

    Suicide rates are lower among religious folk. Apparently it is highest among young upwardly mobile non religious folk in their early thirties

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