Thinking of Suicide or Want To Help Someone Who Is? Read this post.
“There is no suffering greater than that which drives people to suicide, suicide defines the moment in which mental pain exceeds the human capacity to bear it. It represents the abandonment of hope.”
John T. Maltsberger, M.D.
The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 1 million people die each year from suicide. What drives so many individuals to take their own lives? To those not in the grips of suicidal depression and despair, it’s difficult to understand what drives so many individuals to take their own lives. But a suicidal person is in so much pain that he or she can see no other option.
Suicide is a desperate attempt to escape suffering that has become unbearable. Blinded by feelings of self-loathing, hopelessness, and isolation, a suicidal person can’t see any way of finding relief except through death. But despite their desire for the pain to stop, most suicidal people are deeply conflicted about ending their own lives. They wish there was an alternative to committing suicide, but they just can’t see one.
The recent news of Robin Williams’ death was painful for millions of people, not only because he was a beloved entertainer (count me a fan) but because suicide is not a topic which lands on us lightly. This is especially true for the countless number of Christians who are still grieving for loved ones or who have struggled with suicidal thoughts themselves. Not surprisingly, in the wake of such big national news, the Internet lit up with commentary and critique, point and counterpoint. Some of it helpful, some of it not so much.
Our last action does not define the totality of our existence.
The video below was created using lines from an actual suicide letter written by a young teenage girl.
As John Frame points out inThe Doctrine of the Christian Life, there are five instances of suicide in Scripture (Judges 9:52-54; 1 Sam. 31:3-5; 2 Sam. 17:23; 1 Kings 16:18-19; Matt. 27:3-5), and all of them are in a context of shame and defeat (p. 738). Likewise, when more noble characters ask God to take their lives, God never obliges (Num. 11:12-15; 1 Kings 19:4; Jonah 4:1-11). In the cases of Jonah and Job, God clearly views their self-destructive requests unfavorably.
While we want to empathize with those who suffer (from regret or depression or disease or any other unrelenting malady) surely it is poor ethical reasoning to think that suffering is the means that justifies any end.
Julie Gossack—a wife and mother who has five times had to suffer through the suicide of a family member—sums up the matter well:
“Suicide is not a genetic trait nor is it a family curse. Suicide is a sinful choice made by an individual. This statement is neither unloving nor disrespectful. It is the truth. I dearly loved my family members that committed suicide, but their choices were sinful and not righteous”.
Is Suicide the unforgivable sin?
There are only two correct responses to this question.
– “Why do you ask?” and
– “It sounds like things are really hard for you. Please talk to me about what’s happening.”
The theological answer is this:
The Bible views suicide as equal to murder, it is self-murder. God is the one who decides when and how a person should die. To take that power into our own hands, according to the Bible, is a sin against God.
Will I go to Hell?
“Suicide is not the unpardonable sin. If we think that suicide is immune to the cleansing blood of Christ we have misunderstood the extent of redemption.”
Scripture tells us that we cannot lose our salvation once we have been saved.
Mark 16:16 He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned. John 10:28 And I give to them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
Keep in mind that it is theologically correct, but it isn’t what they are really asking.
Here is the principle: theological questions are often personal questions in disguise; they are about the burdens on a person’s heart. Please do not respond with theological propositions or ethical guidelines. Instead, use these questions at the time to know and shepherd the person.
“Why do you ask?” and depending on response:
“It sounds like things are really hard for you. Please talk to me about what’s happening.”
Common Misconceptions about Suicide
- FALSE: People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.
Almost everyone who commits or attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Do not ignore suicide threats. Statements like “you’ll be sorry when I’m dead,” “I can’t see any way out,” — no matter how casually or jokingly said may indicate serious suicidal feelings.
- FALSE: Anyone who tries to kill him/herself must be crazy.
Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane. They must be upset, grief-stricken, depressed or despairing, but extreme distress and emotional pain are not necessarily signs of mental illness.
- FALSE: If a person is determined to kill him/herself, nothing is going to stop them.
Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, wavering until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to die. Most suicidal people do not want death; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.
- FALSE: People who commit suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help.
Studies of suicide victims have shown that more than half had sought medical help in the six months prior to their deaths.
- FALSE: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.
You don’t give a suicidal person morbid ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true — bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.
Suicide Warning Signs
- Talking about suicide
- Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as “I wish I hadn’t been born,” “If I see you again…” and “I’d be better off dead.”
- Seeking out lethal means
- Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
- Preoccupation with death
- Unusual focus on death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or stories about death.
- No hope for the future
- Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped (“There’s no way out”). Belief that things will never get better or change.
- Self-loathing, self-hatred
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden (“Everyone would be better off without me”).
- Getting affairs in order
- Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members.
- Saying goodbye
- Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again.
- Withdrawing from others
- Withdrawing from friends and family. Increasing social isolation. Desire to be left alone.
Suicide warning signs in teens
Additional warning signs that a teen may be considering suicide:
• Change in eating and sleeping habits
• Withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities
• Violent or rebellious behavior, running away
• Drug and alcohol use
• Unusual neglect of personal appearance
• Persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating, or a decline in the quality of schoolwork
• Frequent complaints about physical symptoms, often related to emotions, such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
• Not tolerating praise or rewards
Balancing all of life’s demands — school, work, relationships — can be stressful. Many people can become overwhelmed, anxious and overexerted, at times making it tough to determine if someone is just dealing with the everyday challenges of life or struggling with a larger problem. A person in trouble might need professional help to develop better coping and stress management skills, or they may be dealing with illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders that generally require attention and treatment.
Suicide Prevention Tips:
Suicide prevention tip #1: Speak up if you’re worried
If you spot the warning signs of suicide in someone you care about, you may wonder if it’s a good idea to say anything. What if you’re wrong? What if the person gets angry? In such situations, it’s natural to feel uncomfortable or afraid. But anyone who talks about suicide or shows other warning signs needs immediate help—the sooner the better.
Suicide prevention tip #2: Talking to a person about suicide
Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be extremely difficult for anyone. But if you’re unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask. You can’t make a person suicidal by showing that you care. In fact, giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may prevent a suicide attempt.
Ways to start a conversation about suicide:
- I have been feeling concerned about you lately.
- Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.
- I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.
Questions you can ask:
- When did you begin feeling like this?
- Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?
- How can I best support you right now?
- Have you thought about getting help?
What you can say that helps:
- You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.
- You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.
- I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
- When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold off for just one more day, hour, minute—whatever you can manage.
Suicide prevention tip #3: Do
- Be yourself. Let the person know you care, that he/she is not alone. The right words are often unimportant. If you are concerned, your voice and manner will show it.
- Listen. Let the suicidal person unload despair, ventilate anger. No matter how negative the conversation seems, the fact that it exists is a positive sign.
- Be sympathetic, non-judgmental, patient, calm, accepting. Your friend or family member is doing the right thing by talking about his/her feelings.
- Offer hope. Reassure the person that help is available and that the suicidal feelings are temporary. Let the person know that his or her life is important to you.
- If the person says things like, “I’m so depressed, I can’t go on,” ask the question: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” You are not putting ideas in their head, you are showing that you are concerned, that you take them seriously, and that it’s OK for them to share their pain with you.
Suicide prevention tip #4: Don’t
- argue with the suicidal person. Avoid saying things like: “You have so much to live for,” “Your suicide will hurt your family,” or “Look on the bright side.”
- promise confidentiality. Refuse to be sworn to secrecy. A life is at stake and you may need to speak to a PARENT or ADULT in order to keep the suicidal person safe. If you promise to keep your discussions secret, you may have to break your word.
- offer ways to fix their problems, or give advice, or make them feel like they have to justify their suicidal feelings. It is not about how bad the problem is, but how badly it’s hurting your friend or loved one.
- blame yourself. You can’t “fix” someone’s depression. Your loved one’s happiness, or lack thereof, is not your responsibility.
If you are concerned that someone (including yourself) might be thinking about harming themselves or someone else, it is important that you don’t try and deal with that situation alone. You can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for guidance or 911 if life is in danger.
If you are a Christ follower, then suicide should not be an option. You have submitted your life to Jesus and said your life is devoted to Him and seeking after His kingdom and desires. Suicide is never the answer to anything that we are facing. Jesus is the only thing that will ever satisfy or give us peace.
Before you make a decision to do anything, you need to talk to someone. If you are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, me our anyone else on staff would love to talk with you and to help you in any way we can.
What you need to know is that you are not alone, and the problems you are facing are not hopeless. Jesus is your hope. He loves you. He is for you. Scripture tells us in Romans 8:31, “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?’
There is one thing you need to hear above everything else. Jesus died for you. God loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for our sins, providing a way of escape. If you will trust in Jesus today, you will be set free. Please watch the video to learn more about how to know Jesus and be saved eternally:
Again, don’t hesitate to ask for help from others. Let your closest friends and family know that you are struggling. From there it may be appropriate to seek professional help through a counselor, doctor, or in some cases the emergency room. Here are some resources for you to share on your social media profiles, show your friend that is struggling, or to view for your own personal struggles.
Riley died in an accident not long after making this video. http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2013/05/accident_victim_riley_gortsema.html