Click below to listen to Nancy answer this question on Moody Radio’s Mornings With Kelli and Steve.
Suicide is often something that we would rather not talk about because of the sense of hopelessness and the unknown attached to it. It is now the number 1 killer of teens. “Teen suicide increased 32% in the past four years from 8.4 to 11.1 deaths per 100,000 adolescents ages 15-19” (United Health foundation 2020). Sadly, many of us have known people who have taken their own lives and feel terrible because we could not keep it from happening.
Mental illness is the blame for most life-ending events. It is not a condition where you can “fix” someone by telling them to cheer up and get over it. Those who suffer from severe depression, experience extreme pain and agony that is real. For them, they have no hope. They feel that death is the only way out. They cannot begin to imagine life improving for them. Many believe that they have been a drain on those who love them, and those people would be better off without them.
When a friend or family member falls into depression and hints that he or she is contemplating suicide, their threat should be taken seriously. They are sick and need to seek medical care from physicians who deal with this condition. If their condition is bad enough, they need to be taken to the hospital to get immediate care. Proper medical treatment can alleviate suicidal thoughts. There are medications for depression that work over time. The problem is getting the proper balance, which can take months to show positive results.
The best thing that we can do for them is to be present and listen to them. When the opportunity arises, remind them of who they are and how God sees them. Tell them they matter to God, and He loves them every moment of every day. He is not mad at them. He understands what they are going through and will give them the courage to walk through their struggle because God cares. He is the Great Healer. He wants them to trust in Him to have the peace and joy that they need to navigate through this present struggle.
We can pray for this person and encourage others who know this person to pray. God allows suffering to bring people to Himself. Pray that God would, through the work of the Holy Spirit, give you the words to say that would bring on comfort and hope. If they will let you pray with them, do so. For example you might consider praying:
Father, I pray that my loved one puts his/her trust in You because You are the firm foundation! I pray that they cast their cares on You because You will sustain them. Lord, I thank You for being the rock that they can lean on. I pray that they turn to You in the darkest moments because You are the only one who can bring them out of it and build them up so that they will know that You are more powerful than their suicidal thoughts they battle. Thank You, Lord, Amen
Gracious God, I am so thankful that You understand how I feel right now. My heart hurts for my loved one right now, and I know Your heart grieves as well. Your Word says that You are close to the broken-hearted, and You save those who are crushed in spirit. You deliver them from such torment. Thank You for Your everlasting love, Amen.
A Christian can use this opportunity to share Christ when the victim is stable. They need to know that they are not alone because Jesus loves them, is with them, and has a plan of hope and peace that reaches beyond their current condition.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
“The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).
We must keep in mind that we are not responsible for decisions a suicidal person makes. Most of the time, family and friends blame themselves when someone with this type of severe mental illness dies. This is misplaced blame. If someone is determined to end their life, there is nothing anyone can say or do to prevent it. We have to be at peace knowing God is in control, and we have done, to the best of our ability, what God calls us all to do: to love one another well.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another…” (Colossians 3:12,13).