September is Suicide Awareness and Prevention month. Triton Public Schools did a presentation on Wednesday, September 13 called “My Ascension”, a documentary of a young girl who attempted to take her own life yet survived and is on the road to recovery both physically and mentally. She is also working to raise awareness regarding those that struggle with suicide ideation. The presentation was followed by a panel of people including law enforcement, crisis intervention advocate, parents of youth that died by suicide and pastors. Each answered questions from their various perspective and training.
I was most impressed by the courage of the parents sharing the great loss of their family with a family member taking their life. Also sharing the challenge of finding mental health help that “fit” for their family member. I will not take the time to share them here, but the statistics regarding those struggling to the point of suicide ideation, and then attempts, and then deaths by suicide are astonishing.
One of the biggest points was encouraging people to talk with others and that it is okay to not be okay. When people are sharing their feelings it is important to validate them in their feeling and not just try to fix things for them. From a biblical perspective it is interesting to note some significant biblical characters that wanted to die. Two prophets, Elijah and Jonah openly expressed their desire to die. You can read about them in 1 Kings 19:3-4 and Jonah 4:3.
One illustration that another pastor shared with me is that all the negative emotions we may feel are not bad, in fact, emotions were created by God. The purpose of negative emotions are similar to the indicator lights on the dashboard of your vehicle. When the light comes on it reveals that something is wrong and needs attention to get it fixed. Sometimes those indicator lights are so annoying that you just want to cover them up, like put a piece of electrical tape over them. In similar fashion, some people try to cover up their negative feeling with substance abuse. But those feeling are real and are there to let you know there is something that needs to be fixed. And taking your life is not how it gets fixed.
People who are hurting need compassionate friends who will validate their feelings but also be willing to journey with them to find a missing hope. Suicidal feelings often go along with the loss of hope. The bible says in Psalm 43:5 “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God!” In Proverbs 13:12 “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.”
I would recommend listening to the song “It is Well With My Soul”. The song writer had a wife and four daughters that died in a shipwreck, and then his only son died of pneumonia. Despite all of this tragedy, he continued to believe that it is well with his soul. It is imperative that we guard our own physical, emotional, and spiritual being, and then be ready to help someone on their path to emotional wellness. Help them to find hope.