One of the scariest moments to a pastor is receiving a call from someone in the church who is suicidal. Within the church there are those who battle discouragement and depression. When unattended they may conclude life is not worth living. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among young adults ages 10-24. Every year, people are brought to emergency rooms to receive treatment for self-inflicted wounds during the attempt of suicide. Men are 4-5 times more likely to commit suicide than women while women are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than men.
As a church leader it is best to be informed, recognize the warning signs of suicide and act appropriately.
What are the signs someone you know may be at risk?
- Excessive sadness, irritability, anxiousness, withdrawn, indecisive, apathetic
- Change in behavior/inability to concentrate, loss of sleep patterns/oversleeping
- Change in eating habits/ loss of appetite or weight increased
- Feeling worthless and like nobody cares
- Loss of interest in friends, sex, hobbies, activities once enjoyed
- Worry over money, illnesses, etc. either real or imagined
- Feelings of overwhelming guilt, shame or self-hatred
- Loss of hope for the future / feeling like things will always be bad
- Suicidal impulses, statements, plans, gestures
- Casual statements such as “You will be glad when I am dead” or “I am not able to see my way out”
If you are concerned ask about safety or see the signs of depression ask, “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?” If a person answers yes, here are some important questions to ask:
- How long have you been thinking about harming yourself?
- Do you have a plan to harm yourself?
- If they have a plan: Do you have the means or access to the lethal agent? (such as pills, a gun)
- What keeps you from doing it?
- On a scale from (1-10) ten meaning you will harm yourself what number are you?
Other important factors to consider:
- A prior history of suicide attempts
- Presence of a major mood disorder is a significant risk factor for suicide. Also, people with borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder have increased risk.
- Does this person have a history of drugs and alcohol abuse?
- A history of impulsive behavior associated with increased risk of suicide?
- A family history of suicide
- Recently giving away prized possessions
- An availability of a support system
If any person indicates they are in imminent danger, call 911 to have them taken to an emergency room. If the person is having suicidal thoughts help them gain access to a skilled mental health professional. In addition, encourage them to tell others about their problems to begin a network of support and highlight awareness to those around them.
Remember you are not available 24/7, providing the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number (800-273-8255) can help the person have access to 24/7 help. The San Francisco Suicide Hotline number is (415) 781-0500.
GUIDE TO EMPOWER PEOPLE TO CHOOSE LIFE OVER DEATH!
- Recommend a medication consult: Have them talk with their medical doctor or psychiatrist.
- Generous Compassion: Our churches are uniquely positioned to stand with people in times of personal need. We can provide community, compassion and care. No one need be alone during such a time of need. The love of a caring congregation has helped many while walking through issues such as these.
- Instill hope: The gospel of Jesus Christ is uniquely a message of true hope. During times of trouble, more than ever, people need to have hope they can and will get better. God wants us to see beyond our current circumstances and find hope in the gift of life. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13
- Know their support groups: Encourage them to have a relative stay with them during a crisis. The national suicide hotline has a free chat service with trained crisis counselors that can help someone move from a hot moment to a cool moment. Know trained counselors in your area to help
- Encourage them with the Word of God and prayer for healing: We all need the grace of God in our lives. It is the testimony of the Church for 2,000 years that there is no substitute for the Word of God and prayer as a means of His grace. In the healing process, both are essential components for receiving the grace of God. Don’t underestimate the light of God which is able to deliver those who are suffering.
Don’t go it alone. I am are here to support you through times of crisis like these. Please call me for assistance at (415) 810-6574.