September is Suicide Prevention Awareness month and World Suicide Prevention day is Sept. 10. With the number of teens and children hospitalized for suicidal thoughts and attempts doubling in the last 10 years, it’s more important than ever for the church to raise awareness, offer help to those with suicidal thoughts, and support friends and family who have lost loved ones to suicide.
The topics of suicide and depression still carry a stigma, which means the church has a critical opportunity to lead the conversation about mental health and suicide and be a voice for those who are afraid to speak up. Suicide Prevention Day can be the impetus for leaders to approach the needs in their churches with compassion and sensitivity. We want to show mercy and empathize with those who are suffering while making it known to them that God is present and he offers peace, grace and comfort through the pain.
There are many things we can do to address the warning signs in our youth particularly. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention states that depression and other mental health conditions are often the cause of suicide.
It’s important to note changes in behavior like the following:
increased use of drugs or alcohol
voicing hopelessness or lacking a desire to live
isolating themselves or withdrawing from activities
experiencing anxiety, rage, depression and more
According to the International Association for Suicide Prevention, many people considering suicide reach a point where they see no other alternative than taking their own life but would reconsider if someone simply tried to stop them. While most people are reluctant to intervene, it’s important that we encourage others to speak up if they are concerned about someone who might be having suicidal thoughts. Reaching out to someone could be the first step in getting them treatment and preventing a suicide.
The issue of suicide should touch us deeply with the desire to reach out to those inside and outside of our church walls. Scripture tells us that God has given us the gift of life and that suicide is antithetical to this gift, so we should strive to offer hope to those who are suffering. We should be the first ones to say, “You are not alone.” By creating awareness and breaking down misconceptions about suicide and mental illness, we can provide support to those around us with grace and compassion.
For additional resources go to AFSP.org, IASP.info and YouCannontBeReplaced.com to see how your church can receive training and get involved in suicide prevention and awareness. If someone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.