Tag Archives: suicidal

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.

 

 

How Can We #HoldOutHope? World Suicide Prevention Day 2015.

For some, suicide crashes into their lives without warning, it tornadoes through families leaving a painful wreckage in its’ wake.

For others, suicide is insidious. It’s the flash of a thought, the ache for an end to the pain.

For still more, suicide is a reminder of the guilt and despair that lingers after a suicide attempt.

Some of the pain experienced in life can be sympathised with; the loss of a loved one, or the diagnosis of a critical illness, but all too often, people touched by suicide aren’t sympathised with.

The man who’s desperately trying to hold on, but unable to escape the the suicidal thoughts which assault him every day.

The teenager whose life ended too soon, whose family are trying to pick up the pieces and make sense of a new normality without them.

The woman in her hospital bed, trying to come to terms with the scars her arms now bear and the reality that she tried to take her own life, her family at home, wondering what went wrong.

In the face of the darkest parts of the human mind; how can we respond?

 

 

Whatever feelings may be at the forefront of our own hearts and minds; hurt, anger, shame (and these are important and valid and must be cared for) the response has to be one of compassion.

Compassion, reaching out to share in the person’s pain can bring hope in the most tangible of ways.

Compassion is what the angel who nourished Elijah on Mount Horeb and it was what empowered Paul as he spoke to his desperate jailer. It doesn’t just speak trite words of sympathy, it’s the gut wrenching cry for someone else’s pain.

It’s an expression of love – and it’s a beacon of hope.

So in whichever way you face suicide, whether personally or professionally; respond with compassion. It can be the brightest light to get someone through their darkest night.

Night Falls Fast…So Bring a Torch

It has long been assumed that the biblical view of suicide is that it is both condemnable and unforgivable. For some, looking to christians for comfort during a period of suicidal thoughts, or in the wake of a loved one’s suicide served to add to their pain, rather than to help alleviate it. They received judgement, rather than compassion.

I am not going to speak here of my own personal ethic of suicide, because regardless of the viewpoint we may take, both those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts and those who can no longer bear the weight of those thoughts.

Suicide is a tragedy. This seems to me to be evident in the narrative of Saul and his eventual suicide in the Bible. Commentator O’Mathuna writes:

“Rather than viewing Saul’s suicide as an isolated incident with no moral comment, this scene is the tragic conclusion to a literary masterpiece soaked in moral comment. Tragedy implies that what “is” is not what “ought” to be.” (1)

I do not believe that to be at that point of utter desolation can be what “ought to be”. It is, as O’Mathuna notes, a tragedy. It was a tragic conclusion to Saul’s story. It is tragic when a life ends by suicide.

Tragic for the lost potential of that life.

Tragic for the friends and family left behind, trying to pick up the pieces.

As Charlotte Bronte so beautifully put it;

 “God surely did not create us, and cause us to live, with the sole end of wishing always to die.”

As a christian who believes in the supreme love of God, expressed through the life, death and resurrection of His Son – I must share the view of Bronte.

I believe with all my heart that the most valuable thing we can do for someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts (or in the aftermath of an attempt) is to walk alongside them.

To hold their hand if they need it.

To show them that in the depths of their darkness, you are willing to step into that darkness with them – and hold up a torch.

(1)O’Mathuna, D. “But the Bible doesn’t say they were wrong to commit suicide, does it?” Suicide: A Christian Response, Kregel: Michigan, 1998, p359.

For practical advice to help those struggling with suicidal thoughts see here.

Wounds that Heal?

Two days ago I completed my third year project. A 10,000 word dissertation which has been a labour of love for the past year. “Towards a pastoral response to the suicidal” was the title and it has not been easy. And yet, it has been full of hope. Writing about suicide and suicidal feelings is not the happiest, most upbeat of topics – but writing about how we can support those suffering and educate the Church and society in which we live has inspired and encouraged me.

I wanted to share the final paragraph of my dissertation, because it expresses (briefly) the journey I have been on during the writing. It reads:

“In practice, suicide prevention is more complex and nuanced than can be written on paper. It is not merely a matter of adhering to rules and guidelines, but connecting with the pain and despair of the suffering, using our own pain behind us as an easel and painting a picture of hope, rooted in the biblical narrative and person and work of Jesus Christ, His palms bearing the scars of the nails and arms open wide leading his people home.”

During the writing and researching I have delved into the darker side of humanity, and yet I feel I have been able to glimpse the light that shines from and through Christ Jesus. It is a light which is not afraid of the darkness. It is a light that fights when the darkness threatens to drown it out.

It is my hope that my dissertation will not sit at the bottom of a drawer, gathering dust -but that I may be able to put it to good use and utilise what I’ve learned in the real world. It has, in some ways formed my own pain. It has reminded me that we have the gift and responsibility to use our pain to comfort those who are still in the depths that we once fought through. It is by the wounds of Christ that we are comforted and healed and saved. I am beginning to realise that our pain becomes the fire which burns for others. It is the fuel of our compassion.

As Nicholas Wolterstorff writes so beautifully:

“By his wounds we are healed”. In the wounds of Christ is humanity’s healing. Do our wounds also heal? This gaping wound in my chest – does it heal? What before I did not see, I now see; what before I did not feel, I now feel. But this raw bleeding cavity which needs so much healing, does it heal while waiting for healing? We are the body of Christ on earth. Does that mean that some of our wounds are his wounds, and that some of our wounds heal?” (1)

I believe, have to believe, that our wounds do heal and that in the process God may show his healing power through our wounds and the healing of those wounds. It is my prayer of petition, and my prayer of praise.