Tag Archives: #HoldOutHope

The Aftermath

In her critically acclaimed memoir “Wasted” , Marya Hornbacher she writes of the aftermath of her eating disorder. It is not the happy ending we would wish to read after a memoir of such an acute and destructive eating disorder. She writes the following about the aftermath:

“It is the distance of marred memory, of a twisted and shape-shifting past…And it is the distance of the present, as well – the distance that lies between people in general because of the different lives we have lived. I don’t know who I would be, now, if I had not lived the life I have, and so I cannot alter my need for distance – nor can I lessen the low and omnipresent pain that that distance creates.” (1)

I was chatting today with a friend about the effect a suicide attempt has. The effect on the family, but also the lasting damage and impression it leaves upon the one so consumed with pain that they thought death was the only way out.

We don’t like to talk about it. Who would?

It is uncomfortable and painful to think about that kind of despair, that kind of blinding darkness.

And yet as pastors and preachers, mental health workers, doctors, friends, parents and children, the likelihood is that we will meet someone in our lifetime who has tried to take their own life.

And the damage it causes can leave long-lasting scars in their wake. It scars families, when a member tries to remove themselves from the world.

Samaritans estimate that 5% of the population attempt suicide over the course of their lifetime – but what happens next?

It is my belief that something like attempting suicide leaves its own private and painful legacy. The guilt at the pain you’ve caused family and friends, the knowledge that you have pushed an invisible barrier to breaking point. The body is beautifully designed to protect itself, and once that barrier as been destroyed – suicide never ceases to be an option. It is this which makes a previous suicide attempt the single biggest risk factor for suicide.

It sounds like a hopeless situation.

And yet, there is something about great pain that allows for great compassion. A fight for life in whatever form that takes. One of the most beautiful things about the Christian faith is that Jesus shows us that our pain can heal. Not only that, but He forgives us when we repent – we are not left to dwell on our sins for our whole lives. Wolterstorff writes:

“And what of regrets? I shall live with them. I shall accept my regrets as part of my life, to be numbered among my self-inflicted wounds. But I will not endlessly gaze at them. I shall allow the memories to prod me into doing better with those still living. And I shall allow them to sharpen the vision and intensify the hope for that Great Day coming when we can all throw ourselves into each other’s arms and say, “I’m sorry.”

A suicide attempt does not define you. It will always be a part of your story – but it isn’t the end of your story – far from it! With hope and help, it can be the beginning of a new chapter.

There is an aftermath. There is grief and regret. But there is also forgiveness and hope – the very ingredients of life.

We Don’t Want To Talk About It

We don’t know how to talk about it.

We don’t want to talk about it. I’ve written a dissertation on it, run campaigns around it, and I still find myself struggling for words to understand, to help others understand.

Like the basilisk being summoned to people’s lives once more from Harry Potter’s Chamber of Secrets, suicide is something we try to avoid thinking about, especially in churches. We only think about it when it rears its ugly, destructive head. The despair and pain felt by a suicidal individual cannot be eloquently described. I could speak of darkness, of a fear of the future, of a bone-heavy weariness with life, but each of these phrases fall short. Kay Redfield Jamison eloquently writes suicide in her book “Night Falls Fast” and she says this:

“When people are suicidal, their thinking is paralyzed, their options appear spare or nonexistent, their mood is despairing, and hopelessness permeates their entire mental domain. The future cannot be separated from the present, and the present is painful beyond solace. ‘This is my last experiment,’ wrote a young chemist in his suicide note. ‘If there is any eternal torment worse than mine I’ll have to be shown.”

For some people, it is unthinkable.  The thought may flit unwarranted through the mind, but it doesn’t stay. For others, it is a thought which has to be endured, fought on a daily basis. The psychopathology of suicidal ideation is complex and thankfully, many who struggle with the thoughts never act upon them. For those who do, and survive, we speak strangely of a “failed suicide attempt” as if the completion of the act would somehow be a success. Suicide, whether completed or thankfully interrupted, needs to be talked about.

ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) teaches that asking about suicide doesn’t increase the risk – it decreases it. We must banish the myth that speaking of suicide may somehow “give someone the idea”. Asking the question may be the key which enables someone to say the words no-one else wants to hear.

I won’t pretend here that hearing someone’s wish to die is easy. It isn’t. Hearing someone say the words “I want to die” is incredibly difficult, especially if we love that person. For the christian, fears of committing the unforgivable sin and being condemned to hell exacerbate this (for the record, suicide is a forgivable sin, any more than other sin – for further reading on the attitudes of suicide I will direct you to Rob Waller’s article on the matter.

Suicide, in whatever circumstance, is tragic. It leaves in its’ wake a complicated grief and countless unanswered, unanswerable questions.  I can only offer a reminder of the spirit which groans for us when we haven’t got the words to pray ourselves to those touched by suicide.

For the Church, we have a challenge. We have the chance to make a difference. To ask the most difficult questions and stand beside those whose legs are giving way beneath them.

 

 

Hold Out Hope – #SOScampaign2015

Last year, we wanted to get you about speaking of suicide. We wanted to change the language used – using phrases like “completed suicide” rather than “committed suicide” – and we were overwhelmed with the response. For more information on last year’s campaign have a read here.

So this year, we wanted to take things a step further.

Now we’re Speaking of Suicide, we want to Hold Out Hope.

Hold Out Hope for the Mum who’s at the end of her tether and wondering if she can go on.

Hold Out Hope for the boy who doesn’t fit in at school and doesn’t feel like he can fit in at life either.

Hold Out Hope for the girl who sees nothing but shame in the mirror and wishes she could disappear.

Hold Out Hope for the families of the 800 000 people who die by suicide every year.

So how can you Hold Out Hope?

1) Get tweeting! Use the has tags #wspd15, #SOScampaign and #HoldOutHope to join the conversation.

2) Speak of Suicide! Let’s stop speaking about suicide as if it were a crime – instead of committing suicide – use phrases like “died by suicide” or “took their own life”.

3) Get booking! Let us come to speak to your church or youth group about suicide in a way that isn’t scary or depressing – but in a way which inspires hope. We’ll be looking at the scale of suicide, what the Bible has to say on suicide prevention in the life of Elijah and how we can bring hope to people when they are at their most hopeless. Head over to our resources page for more information.

4) Hold Out Hope! Offer a listening ear, accompany someone to the doctors, send a text or tweet to someone you know is struggling.