In a heartbreaking suicide note, Lori, a 14-year-old church attendee, wrote before ending her life: “I’m sorry, Mom. I got too many problems. I’m taking the easy way out.”
Suicide is an epidemic that knows no boundaries. It’s invaded our churches and communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-34 and fourth leading cause for ages 35-54. We as the Church are responsible to do what we can to reduce the risk of someone taking his or her life.
Because suicide is highest among youth, parents must become sensitive to what is happening to their children and their peers. Youth suffer from bullying more cruel than previous generations, largely due to social media. It’s a very real and serious problem leading some to commit bully-cide: dying from suicide because of constant torment, fear, and humiliation associated with bullying. Bullying can be stopped when addressed by a parent or authority figure.
What can a parent do to help protect their kids? Study your kids. Learn to read them like a book. Get to know their friends. Invite their friends to your home and make them feel welcomed. Do all you can to develop good communication with your children.
“Bad company corrupts good character. You become like those you hang around” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Parents need to monitor what assaults their children’s easily influenced minds through peers and all electronic technology. A parent’s sacrificial love, caring, concern, and undivided attention is far better than a funeral and final goodbyes at a grave site.
The most common warning sign of suicide among all age groups is depression. Ongoing torment from anxiety, hopelessness, and relentless life pressures that someone feels is beyond his or her ability to control leads to depression. Among our friends, co-workers, family members, and even our fellow churchgoers, people put on a happy face when things are not well. Christians hesitate to admit depression for fear of being criticized they lack faith in Christ, are spiritual weaklings, don’t have a true conversion experience, or told Christians are not supposed to be depressed.
Given the right circumstances, everyone can experience depression on some level. Great men and women in the Bible suffered depression. Jesus understands the human heart and mind. Jesus in His tenderness challenges His followers to quit putting on a happy face and stop pretending nothing is wrong when things are not happy. We as Christians and leaders can either play a significant role in helping someone heal or add fuel to the fire of their downward spiral into depression and despair.
Even if you have not learned all the warning signs, you can still discern if someone is in crisis and may be contemplating suicide. You can quickly assess the risk level by asking four questions:
1. Have you had thoughts of killing yourself?
2. Have those thoughts turned into a plan to kill yourself?
3. Do you have everything you need to carry out your plan?
4. Do you intend to follow through with this plan?
This approach calls for a yes or no answer. When these four questions are answered yes, don’t delay. Immediately get that person to help or call 911.
CARING FOR SURVIVORS
Suicide survivors are those friends and family members left behind by another’s suicide. They experience a high level of self-perceived psychological, physical, and/or social distress for a considerable time after the suicide. Recovery can be complicated and lengthy. What can we do? The number one way to help is simply come alongside them. Be the presence of Christ to them. Show love and be supportive in a nonjudgmental way with your caring presence, love, compassion and support. Be the calming, reassuring presence of Jesus to them.
Suicide often leaves people agonizing over the numerous “why” questions. Sadly, some questions have no answers. Then we must point people to the who: God. God grieves over suicide and the suffering it brings. Men and women can choose life and peace following God in a personal, forever love relationship or they can live apart from God following their own way. God is not the author of suffering. He is the author of redemption, new life, healing, deliverance, peace and restoration.
God is the God of all comfort. “He lifts those bent beneath their loads” (Psalm 145:14).
“He heals the broken hearted binding up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).
God says, “Call on me in your day of trouble and I shall rescue you” (Psalm 50:15).
We live in a broken, hurting, doomed world that is growing darker. We sit in pews next to broken, hurting children of God in desperate need of the healing power of Christ. God is a God of hope. We must be instruments of healing in God’s hands, guided by the Holy Spirit.
Suicide is never God’s plan for any of His precious creations. It can be prevented. We must step up our efforts to bring the love, hope, and healing found in a personal relationship with Christ.
Nick Costello is an Assemblies of God evangelist. For more about his Stop Suicide seminar visit www.nickcostello.org.