Thursday, 05 March 2015 01:01

Responding to Suicidal Thoughts in a Christian

Written by  Jessica Gibbe-Fernandez
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Recently, it seems that we are touched by suicide more.  We would like to think that Christians never think about suicide, but unfortunately they do.  Faith is a deterrent to suicide for many Christians, but faith does not guarantee immunity from suicide in moments of despair.  How well equipped are you to help someone who is considering suicide?

What does Scripture say about suicide? Scripture doesn’t say anything specific about suicide.  However, Paul emphatically states that we can never be separated from God. Knowing we are covered by God’s grace can be a great comfort to those who feel they cannot be forgiven for a transgression and are hopeless, and for those who have survived the suicide of a loved one.

 

 

Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NIV)

 

 

Christians may consider suicide during periods of intense emotional or physical pain, major or multiple losses, terminal illness, chronic mental or physical illness, loneliness, extreme stress, moral injury from wartime experience, financial setbacks or other problems common to human existence.  As Christians, we are not immune from these feelings.

 

Sometimes, especially in hindsight, we can recognize that a loved one was contemplating suicide. Our goal is to recognize the difficulty of loved ones before they act. When you know someone is struggling, pay attention to statements, writings, or art that indicate hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness and despair. 

 

“I am tired of living like this.”  “What is the point of living?”  “My family will be better off without me.”  “I don’t think I can go on like this.”  “It feels like God has abandoned me.” “I don’t feel worthy of God’s love.”  “I don’t think I can be forgiven.” You may have heard many others. 

 

Dismissing these statements as exaggerations, manipulation attempts, or assuming that the person did not mean their statements is tempting, but deadly.  Our own anxiety about getting involved in such deeply personal issues can cause us to withdraw from the situation.  However, it is a matter of life and death for Christians to respond to the despair of others with the mercy, compassion, support and the empathy Christ showed toward us. 

 

Compassionate but bold questions are most helpful in these situations.  “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?” “You seem hopeless and I’m concerned that you may be suicidal.” “Tell me more about what you are thinking and feeling.”

 

If they indicate thought of self-harm or suicide, go further and ask about their plan. “When you think of harming yourself, how would you do it?”  “Do you have a plan?”  Then ask whether they have the means to harm themselves.  For instance, “Do you have access to gun (or any other lethal means)?”  If they have access to the means, identify how serious their intent is.  Remember, over the counter medication, ropes, automobiles, knives and other commonly available household items can be deadly.  Kindly, but firmly, remove the means to self-harm.

 

Offer encouragement and hope.  Let them know you will not abandon them and that there is hope for improvement.  You might say, “Let’s get you help first.”  Follow up with contacting their primary care physician or their psychiatrist if they have one, a close family member, pastor, friend, or counselor.  If no one is immediately available, or their support system is not healthy, don’t leave them alone.  Sometimes a hospital is required to keep someone safe and it can be a relief for them to know they will get help. 

 

Offer practical assistance by making an appointment, driving them to the hospital, physician or therapist, providing food and a safe place to rest.  Pray with them or read Scripture if desired.  Offer to take care of their children or animals.  Assist in removing the barriers to getting help.

 

Be sure to let them know that God’s love, comfort and compassion exist even if they can’t feel it.  Feelings of detachment are symptoms of depression, not fact.   

 

The risk of suicide falls drastically after being involved in therapy and receiving loving support from others.  Being currently suicidal is not an indicator of feeling suicidal forever.  God’s love is always available to us.

 

 

John 13:34-35 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (NIV)

 

 

 

 

Last modified on Thursday, 19 March 2015 01:03
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