National Suicide Prevention Week is in September.
No, not all people who try and/or succeed in committing suicide are mentally ill. Sometimes life’s struggles are just too overwhelming. Many experience a profound sense of hopelessness or loss, leading them to believe their lives will never get better—that their pain will never end.
In my case, many years ago, I felt hopeless and saw no way to happiness. I had graduated from college, was married, but living far from my native Ohio and everything and everyone familiar. I felt trapped and alone but was thrilled to be the new mother of a beautiful baby. So I couldn’t understand why I was planning what I was planning. Thinking through possible methods of escape, however, I couldn’t come up with one that would ensure the safety of my daughter when I was gone.
In the end, I chose to live because of the small life God had entrusted to me. I eventually called my obstetrician who referred me to a psychiatrist. Much later, my mother diagnosed “baby blues” (postpartum depression). The second time I experienced similar feelings was after the birth of my son 10 years later. But this time I had a compassionate pastor to call.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
—In 2013, 41,149 suicides were reported, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans.
—The highest suicide rate (19.1) was among people 45 to 64 years old.
—The second-highest rate (18.6) occurred in those 85 years and older.
—In 2013, firearms were the most common method of death by suicide, accounting for a little more than half (51.4%) of all suicide deaths.
—While males are four times more likely than females to die by suicide, females attempt suicide three times as often as males.
—An estimated 4.8 million Americans are survivors of suicide of a friend, family member, or loved one.
Experts believe most suicidal individuals do not want to die. They just want to end the pain they are experiencing. When suicidal behaviors are detected early, lives can be saved.
If you are aware that a loved one is at risk for suicide, contact a suicide crisis center, a crisis hotline, a family physician, a psychiatrist or your pastor. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255). The hotline provides access to trained counselors at all hours, every day.
Barbara Miller serves on the churchwide executive board. She lives in Washington, Mich.
Questions for consideration
1. What does God’s word tell us to do in crises?
2. What is your congregation’s attitude toward suicide? What is yours?
3. Have you recognized suicidal tendencies in others close to you?
4. What can and will you do to address their needs?
5. Have you ever felt depressed? Where have you turned?
Photos provided by the National Suicide Hotline