Women Feel the Stress
A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report cites a drop in life expectancy among white women for the first time in a century. Government statisticians linked the decline to opioid abuse and suicide. Other top causes of death include alcohol poisoning and liver diseases.
The statistics don’t surprise licensed psychologist Donald A. Lichi, vice president of EMERGE Counseling Services in Akron, Ohio, and an adjunct professor at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri. He notes that women represent about half of today’s workforce.
“But their traditional responsibilities have not diminished at all,” Lichi says. “More and more women I’ve seen are just plain stressed.”
The overall population is busy, with little downtime or healthy stress-relievers.
“Even on a so-called day off they’re not unplugging,” Lichi says. “We live in a fast-paced, fed up, stressed out, highly addictive culture. The human body is just not designed to deal with this over an extended period of time. It’s not sustainable.”
Women increasingly seek chemical substitutes to cope, namely prescription drugs.
Joseph S. Batluck Sr., president of Teen Challenge International USA, notes that the suicide rate rose 24 percent between 1999 and 2014. The drug epidemic and increase in suicides are connected.
Faced with a rising patient load, to address symptoms physicians increasingly resort to pharmaceutical solutions, Batluck says. Prescription drug use has become normal in much of society, including among churchgoers.
While alcohol remains the most widespread drug for sale, Batluck believes the legalization of marijuana is worsening the dependency problem.
“Almost no addict out there is a single substance user,” Batluck says. “They keep looking for something that’s going to give them a better feel-good experience.”
A study found that those who have used opioids, a class of drugs that includes Oxycodone, Vicodin, and Percocet, for at least two years have an 11 percent greater tendency toward suicide. The main curb on opiate addiction is availability; acquiring them requires physician-hopping for prescriptions, fraud, or theft.
Certainly churches are in the position of being at the forefront to help those on the brink of desperation.
So is Teen Challenge, an Assemblies of God residential recovery program for those struggling with substance abuse. Teen Challenge focuses on Bible-based values and a personal relationship with Christ as its treatment model. The U.S. ministry has 249 locations, 49 of which are for adult women and 11 for women and children.
Founded in 1959, Teen Challenge programs across the U.S. follow the same basic core principles. Each is long term, from six to 18 months; this intensive approach more thoroughly addresses core issues, thus closing the revolving door between jail and short-term treatment. Several Teen Challenge centers offer a 30-day program in the hope of connecting the addict to a long-term program.
“You don’t fix a long-term addict with a 30-day program,” Batluck says. All Teen Challenge programs are gospel-centered, beginning with a spiritual boot camp for men and women who want to be free from life-controlling habits and become alive in God. The program continues with a 12-step program complemented by Bible study and community service. Each is residential and comprehensive, including clinical counseling to address psychosocial development that stopped when the addict began using drugs.
Batluck hopes to expand the number of Teen Challenge residential facilities for moms with children.
“Addiction is a family thing,” Batluck says. “Getting out of it is truly a family thing that requires a lot of help. When mom or dad is getting high, the likelihood of kids having access, if not just picking up the habit, is great.”
To thwart the spike in mortality, Lichi advocates people to strive for a healthy rhythm of life that includes downtime, “holy leisure” recreation, better nutrition, adequate sleep, investing in personal relationships, and pursuing a strong, intentional spiritual life.