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Preventing Suicide

Job, Jonah, Elijah are some of the biblical examples who had reached a point of hopelessness and wished for death.  We know that King Saul and Judas Iscariot actually crossed the line of taking their life.  Sections of the Psalms and the book Lamentations remind us we live “in this world” and with the consequence of sins and the fallen state of mankind, sometimes we hurt deeply and wonder how to go on.  Yet in the midst of pain, there is hope and we are thankful for the redemptive work of Jesus Christ and for the good news of the Gospel!

Many of the below themes are taken from Focus on the Family’s Alive to Thrive eBook. You can read an abbreviated summary of this eBook by clicking here.

Suicide is not always 100% preventable. Statistics tell us 12 kids (ages 15-24) will die each day in America from suicide. Over 13% of high school aged students actually have formulated a suicide plan in the past year. Those on the front lines of engaging our youth- parents, teachers, employers, mentors and those with a heart for our youth can be proactive in working to be aware and possibly help prevent suicides.

Prevention is rooted in understanding causes of suicide, recognizing warning signs & triggers, and seeking a mindset of knowing how to engage and reach out to one who might be struggling.

Prevention points to highlight:

Causes– Studies have identified six main reasons for adolescent suicide: depression, psychosis, impulse, cry for help, philosophical reasoning, and mistake.  It is known depression is a huge piece of the suicide puzzle and only 20% of teens with depression actually get appropriate help.  It is good for adults to know and recognize symptoms of depression.

Triggers– Thankfully, depression in itself is usually not a sole cause of one’s suicide, but is often accompanied with a triggering event/crisis.  Some general circumstances can include: divorce of parents, violence in the home, inability to succeed in school, breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend, feelings of worthlessness, rejection by friends or peers, substance abuse, death of a loved one, and the suicide of a friend or acquaintance.  There can be many warning signs that accompany such triggers (and for some youth, there are very few or even none that are visible).  Sudden mood/emotional changes that are out of the normal range, prolonged loss of interest in activities/events that used to be enjoyable, withdrawing from family and friends, expressing comments of hopelessness and of being dead/gone are just a few warning signs. Most teens can exhibit these at any given moment, so proceeding with a discerning spirit is important.

Responding to these Issues with Purpose and Practice:

Communicating purpose: Acknowledgment of Satan’s ability to come to steal and destroy and deceive young adults into chasing empty idols is crucial.  Sadly, our youth are bombarded with these lies and faulty messages from culture. Being willing to speak proactively into our youth about their true Creator, purpose, significance, and their value as children of God must speak louder than culture’s message.

Putting into practice necessary skills for prevention:  Most self-destructive behaviors are attempts to communicate pain to others and seek some relief.  Showing our youth healthier ways to communicate and deal with inner hurts/struggles is key. Four basic steps are that serve as good reminders include:

  1. Listen: Use active listening skills and read non-verbal communication of tone, body language, etc. which allows kids to slowly open up as we attempt to hear their hearts.
  2. Share: Talk honestly with youth about your own experiences and emotional pain and empathize with the hard feelings of being lonely and confused. It is important to keep in mind that the goal of sharing with youth is to connect with their emotions and experiences. Too often we can share our own testimonies with the purpose of minimizing their experiences, providing an easy “fix” or desiring they empathize with our experiences.
  3. Provide Options: Work with kids to develop a list of healthy activities they can do when they’re stressed or experiencing negative emotions.
  4. Seek support: Asking friends, family members, pastors, and healthcare professionals for support will aid in healing from self-destructive behaviors.

Additional Resources:

  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255
  • Suicide Crisis Text Line (text “Connect” to 741741)
  • Lifeline Crisis Chat

Focus on the Family’s “Alive to Thrive” program

Focus on the Family’s “Alive to Thrive” eBook

Help Guide: Suicide Prevention

Click here to read the Full PDF “Preventing Suicide in our Youth.”