The Rabbinical Alliance of America — Igud HaRabbonim, a professional Rabbinical Organization with a membership of 950 Orthodox Rabbis — calls on local community members of all faiths to be more proactive in taking small steps to prevent suicide. Recent high-profile suicides focus national attention on the tragedy of suicide, in which one of the Almighty’s beloved creations is lost to family, friends and community. Over the past approximately 15 years, suicide rates in the U.S. have increased by nearly 30 percent. The causes of suicide are complex but this nation faces eroding protections in the form of declining local communities.

In the past, local civic groups and religious houses of worship fostered community. People knew each other on a personal basis and shared real moments of interaction. The much-discussed decline of religion and civic participation has diminished the camaraderie of daily life. Too many Americans have lost the support structure of people who care and know them, who offer hope when they are down and praise when they face criticism. Local community members must step up their efforts to assist each other, to reach out to people they do not yet know, to firm their ties with acquaintances. This is all in addition to looking for warning signs and encouraging those suffering to seek professional help.

Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, Executive Vice-President of the RAA/IGUD stated, “The Almighty loves every single person. Everyone you meet on the street is created with the Divine image, imbued with countless talents and abilities. Next time you walk down the street, cheer up someone you don’t know. Try getting to know them. Encourage them to go to synagogue or another group activity. It could save their life. While mental illness requires professional assistance, a friendly smile never hurts and sometimes can make all the difference.”

RAA/Igud’s member rabbis are available to speak with anyone feeling distress. Anyone experiencing difficulty should feel free to reach out to their rabbi, as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.