Monthly Archives: September 2016

Let’s Hear the Girls

What are girls made of?

Sugar and spice and all things nice?

It may or may not be true, but life certainly isn’t all sweetness and light for our young women with a recent study which claims that 1 in 7 young girls between the ages of 10 and 15 aren’t happy, an increase over 21% over the past five years.

Not only that but rates of suicide in young women have risen almost 10% over the past year and figures released yesterday paint a grim picture with almost 20% of girls self-harming and over 28% living with a mental illness.

So what is it about life that makes it so hard for girls to live?

Is it the ever-present pressure of perfection which pervades our media?

Or the fact that women are a high risk group for experiencing sexual violence?

Is it the lack of support for women bringing children into the world?

Undoubtedly they all have their parts to play in the decline in women’s mental health; it seems there has been a perfect storm of rising pressures and failing support services brewing for over a decade and now, in the eye of the storm, women and girls are losing their lives.

I wanted to write a response with a call for action. Action for our girls.

But the thing that keeps buzzing through my mind is:

“Jesus wept.”

And I think perhaps we need to start with lament. Lament and confession that, as a society, we’re messing up.

We are raising young women who have no sense of their worth and no way to deal with trauma. And twenty years ago, Susanna Kaysen wrote in her memoir Girl, Interrupted words which I think still resonate today.

“When you’re sad you need to hear your sorrow structured into sound.”

We need to help our young people put their pain into words and melody.

And then we need to listen to their stories so that they can know they aren’t alone.

We can’t change with any immediacy.

What we can do is listen to one young person at a time until they hear that we care and that there is life worth living.

The Sound of Hope

“I want to die”

Four words that have buzzed in and out of my mind countless times over the past two decades.

At times they have drifted through without my paying much attention to them, as strange as that may sound.

At other times, it has felt like those words have been branded behind my eyes, and I’ve been unable to focus on anything other than their seductive promise of release relief.

As Nietzsche once said: “The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night.”

It might sound strange for those who haven’t experienced suicidal thoughts, but for me and many like me; the thought of suicide has been, if not a consolation, then certainly a distraction from the maelstrom of life.

And whilst they do bring short lived relief, the waves of disabling guilt and grief crash in almost as quickly leaving exhaustion in their wake.

I almost wish I were the only one, but suicidal thoughts affect a staggering number of people, with 33 per cent of students reporting they’ve had thoughts of ending their own lives. A third of students in the UK think about ending their own lives, lives that are only just beginning.

It’s something we have to start speaking about, because silence in the greatest ally suicide has, so we need to break it. We don’t like talking about darkness, do we?

One of the darkest days in human history is one which no-one speaks of, one on which even the Bible is silent.

Holy Saturday.

The day between crucifixion and resurrection, where Jesus has died and hope is nowhere to be found.

Theologian Epperly writes: “Holy Saturday is the time in between death and resurrection, fear and hope, pain and comfort. Holy Saturday is the valley of grief and uncertainty, for us and for Jesus’ disciples.”

Suicidal thoughts have been my Holy Saturday, the times when it’s felt like hope has been buried and no light can be found. We have to talk about Holy Saturday times. We have to talk about suicidal thoughts. Because silence does nothing but increase the fear.

We have to talk about the silence and darkness of suicidal thoughts and of Holy Saturday, because it’s the only way we can welcome sound and light.

Richard Rohr seems to offer a pattern for holding the silence and the sound, the darkness and the light. He writes: “God wants useable instruments who will carry the mystery, the weight of glory and the burden of sin simultaneously, who can bear the darkness and the light, who can hold the paradox of incarnation – flesh and spirit, human and divine, joy and suffering, at the same time, just as Jesus did.”

Jesus’ silence on Holy Saturday speaks to our own silence in suffering. It urges us to speak into the dark and silent spaces. So this World Suicide Prevention Day, let’s speak of suicide, to make space for the sound of hope.

This first appeared at www.threadsuk.com as part of our #SpeakOfSuicide campaign.

Speak of Suicide #WSPD16

To mark this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day, we wanted to focus particularly on suicidal thoughts.

New statistics have been trickling in for a while now with rates of suicide in women and students rising and Mind estimate that 1 in 5 of us have suicidal thoughts in our lives.

And it seems the younger you are, the the more likely you are to have had thoughts of taking your own life; a new statistic released on Thursday from ChildLine tells us that they have a phone call every 30 minutes from a child having thoughts of taking their own lives.

Every half an hour, a child is talking about taking their own life. And they’re just the ones we know about.

We can’t stay every hand reaching for a way out.

So what can we do?

We can stop young people suffering in silence and solitude.

No-one should feel ashamed of their pain.

And when we speak, shame flees.

When we walk alongside people, we have a chance to make a difference.

We don’t need clever words or therapeutic techniques.

We need to listen to the words of hopelessness so that we can compose a song of hope.

We don’t always need the answers, but we need to be there to hear the questions.

I want to challenge you to be a psalmist, not a problem solver. 

A Psalmist speaks and rests their words before God.

Psalm 88 is an example of the power in speaking of the darkness, bringing it before God and leaving it at His feet.

To hope in God in the midst of suicidality demands that not only does God hear us when we cry, but gets into our pain with us. Matt Bays writes:

“Sometimes it feels as if God has invited himself into my pain, when I had hoped to be invited into his healing. We want a God who heals our wounds, but it seems we have a God who heals our hearts.”

This is the God we want to reflect in our ministry. The God who, through Jesus joins us in the dark when it feels like it’s our only friend.

So today, on World Suicide Prevention Day, let’s speak of suicide.

Let’s raise awareness of those who are thinking of suicide as I write, but let’s go further.

Let’s shed some light into the darkness, whether that be reaching out to a friend, challenging stigmatising language, praying for the suicidal in our intercessions or starting a conversation in our churches.

 

To join the conversation; tweet using #SpeakOfSuicide or #WSPD16 and for more information on how you can #SpeakOfSuicide in your community check out Speaking of Suicide course.