Yet another report of suicide—this time it’s a teen, a young professional, or a senior citizen. We always hope it isn’t so. Maybe there was a terrible accident and the authorities got it wrong. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the deceased.
From a preventive perspective, good people frequently wonder, “Why didn’t I see this coming?” “What could I have done to prevent it?’ And simply, “Why did this happen?”
Often there are indicators of suicidal ideation. People will talk about ending their lives. They may “put their affairs in order.” Sometimes they give away prized possessions, say their good byes, or research suicide methods on the internet. We dare not ignore such signs. But sometimes there are no signs.
When we see “signs” that scare us, love compels us to act. Sometimes it’s wise and courageous to ask, “Are you thinking about harming yourself?” Sometimes it’s better to help the person connect with medical or mental health professionals. It’s always proper to increase our love and support. To borrow and tweak familiar language, “When you see something that’s scary or unsettling, say something.”
We commonly tell those who are hurting over a friend’s suicide, “Please remember that you can never know all that’s going on inside another person’s head.” Only the Lord has such knowledge. Ultimately, we cannot control the actions of others. Those words are true, but they don’t provide much comfort.
Some have described suicide as “a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” Others suggest that suicide becomes an option when the pain of living exceeds the fear of dying. We want to be very careful with clichés and truisms. For Christians, suicide is never a valid option. Respect for life and the Giver of life preclude it.
Partly in an effort to prevent suicide, some have unwisely asserted, “Suicide is self-murder. Murderers fall under biblical condemnation. Therefore, all who commit suicide are excluded from heaven.” While scripture forbids murder and teaches the reality of God’s righteous judgment, there is a flaw of omission in this assertion. It fails to consider the victim’s mental state. Only the competent can be responsible and culpable for their actions. The assertion also contains a theological flaw. Judgment belongs to the all-knowing and all-loving God. It’s unsafe, unwise, and harmful to say more than we know.
What can we do to stem the tide of the stunning tragedy of suicide?
- Affirm that life is a precious gift from God (Genesis 2:26-27 & 4:1, Acts 17:24-28).
- Love people, especially hurting people, with the love of the Lord (1 Corinthians 13).
- Never joke about or make light of suicide or depression (Colossians 4:5-6).
- Especially with hurting people, do the good we know to do (James 1:22-24, 2:14-17, & 4:17).
- Pray for all, especially those who are obviously troubled and burdened (1 Timothy 2:1).
- Treat all with dignity and respect (Matthew 7:12).
- Even when we don’t know what to say, show up and show love (Ecclesiastes 4:7, Job 2:11-13).
- Don’t try to explain the inexplicable.
- Respect people’s feelings. Allow them to voice their feelings without reproach.
- Ask for help from God and from others (James 1:5). God often blesses through human hands.
For additional information or immediate assistance, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org