This post was submitted to Disability Concerns; at the author's request, we have withheld their name. September is Suicide Awareness month. We have posted this piece to bring awareness to the ongoing conversations that need to happen around suicide. Please reach out to us if you need support.
Dear faith community,
In all honesty, this is a conversation I prefer to run away from. It has taken me 5 years to feel like I have the capacity to explore this conversation with anyone outside of my close group of friends that have walked alongside me for many years. However, as a church, I feel that we often fail one another in our inability to speak openly about suicide, so what I am about to share is done so in an attempt to expand the conversation, allow a space for additional voices, and to diminish the feeling of isolation that exists around the conversation of suicide. Please note that in an effort to safeguard those reading and connecting to this conversation, comments will not be allowed, as they can be very damaging or triggering. However, I welcome anyone who would like to connect for support to email Disability Concerns.
A fellow Christian
As someone who has grown up in the church, I was raised with the ideology that suicide was a sin and that the decision to “choose” suicide meant eternal death, separation from God and those who had chosen eternal life. As Christians, we are not alone in this theology—many other religions have held a similar perspective on suicide.
However, this over-generalized perspective on suicide certainly eliminates the much needed conversations on WHY people we love would feel that their only choice is suicide, how we can show empathy and finally what supports we need to put in place to support one another. This is the narrative we need to give space for.
Expanding our understanding of suicide as it relates to mental health challenges
For me, the word suicide is a significant trigger. I have spent years in very close proximity to someone who has struggled significantly with suicidal thoughts. Their struggles have had very real and lasting impacts on my own life. So much so that I often have a hard time sitting in conversations related to suicide as every fiber of my being is telling me to run away. Being close to someone struggling is incredibly difficult to watch as your heart hurts for that individual, but you are also working to manage your own mental health at the same time.
One of the biggest issues, though, that I encountered with this journey was the requirement for silence around the word suicide. Somewhere along the way, our society has deemed suicide something that we whisper about in corners and keep in the dark. That is probably the worst decision to make for those struggling. Finding people that can sit with you, that are willing to give space for you, is incredibly important.
In my own life, joining a support group was the best decision I made. For 10 weeks I would walk up the stairs to the second floor room of a building across from a hospital and sit in a circle that was safe. Everyone in that space had been on a long journey with someone they loved, and they were tired. It was ok to feel raw and sad and share your journey because you were with others who had been on a similar journey. There is peace in finding a fellow traveler.
Jesus makes a promise to us in Matthew 11:28. He says "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” How can we as the church be examples of Jesus for others? What does that mean when it comes to the discussion on suicide? I challenge you to consider this as you give space for this conversation.
Resources from Disability Concerns:
- Resources for Suicide Prevention, Intervention and Postvention
- Mental Health Ministries Shares Resources
Additional resources to connect to for further support:
- NAMI - National Alliance on Mental Health Awareness
- Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries
- Shalem Mental Health Network
For your quick reference, here are nationwide emergency numbers and crisis lines:
- Canada: 911, Crisis Services Canada: 1-833-456-4566
- United States: 911, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- United Kingdom: 999/112, Samaritans: 116 123
- New Zealand: 111, 1737, Lifeline Aotearoa: 0800-543-354
- Australia: 000, Lifeline: 13 11 14