Dr. Timothy Sumerlin - Denver, CO, USA • Sep 23, 2020
Suicides have nearly doubled in the United States among young people in recent years. Other age groups are not immune to this scourge. During the next few weeks we'll discuss how the church can help reverse this trend.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. ~ Psalm 139
The Scourge of Suicide
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in America and around the world. It afflicts the young and old. I’ve had to deal with this for 30 years as a counselor – dear friends and students who have completed suicide. My role as a counselor is usually twofold: I teach about suicide prevention, and I counsel those closest to individuals who have taken their lives, and help them cope with the emotional disarray afterwards.
I like this analogy of my role in counseling: I can either be an ambulance at the bottom of a cliff (counseling those who suffer a loss to suicide) or a guardrail at the top (suicide prevention). In the church we can be guardrails. Here are a few guardrails we'll discuss in the coming weeks:
1) Mental health awareness: many people who complete suicide struggle with a mental health diagnosis. These complex challenges need attention, care, and compassion. Who do you know with a mental health diagnosis? Take time to learn the nuances of their specific challenge. Ask them questions and see how you can help them cope with their challenge.
2) Understand the shame associated with depression and anxiety: The last ten years has seen encouraging progress in this area. Disciples with a mental health diagnosis no longer live in the shadows of their challenge. We've learned compassion as a fellowship, but there is still room to grow. Think compassion instead of judgement.
3) Understand the various features of suicide: There is a wealth of information on this subject. A cursory look on google will provide much needed information. Here's one: Christianity Today article I'll share others in the coming weeks.
4) Learn to ask questions: It is a myth that if we bring up the subject of suicide, we'll be encouraging suicidal behavior. It is just the opposite. Learning to ask the right questions can go a long way in preventing suicide. Generally people want to talk about suicide and find ways to prevent it, but they need a loving, caring, and wise friend to start the conversation.
In the coming weeks we'll discuss some helpful tips on suicide prevention and how to help our friends not make this tragic mistake. Stay tuned!