Question: "How can I help someone who is suicidal?"
The threat of suicide is frightening and should be taken seriously. Many times, such a threat is merely a cry for help. Those with suicidal thoughts may be so distraught that they cannot imagine life improving, and they simply want the pain to go away. Suicide may seem the only alternative, yet the mention of it is often a desperate attempt to get the attention of someone who may be able to stop the pain.
Suicide is sin, so anyone contemplating it needs to remember that (Matthew 5:21–22). Human beings are God’s creation, and none of us have the right to murder God’s creation, even if we make ourselves the victim. Suicide is telling God that He doesn’t know what He is doing and does not understand how hard life is. Psalm 139:16 says that “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” God sets the length of our lives, not us. Before we can help someone who is suicidal, we need to have a clear understanding that suicide is never a good option.
When a friend or family member hints that he is contemplating suicide, we should urge him to see a doctor. Many times, depression or some physical problem may be at the root of the suicidal thoughts. Proper medical treatment may alleviate the suicidal thoughts and return the person to healthy thinking. Physicians can also refer the suicidal person to a mental health professional for evaluation and treatment. Medication and talk therapy have helped many people abandon suicidal thoughts and return to their lives. A concerned friend or family member should keep a close watch on the suicidal person to make sure she is following through on the suggestions. Often suicidal people don’t care enough about their own lives to pursue help, so loving friends and family should step in and make sure the available help is utilized.
When physical and mental health have been addressed, we can help a suicidal person by also addressing his spiritual state. If the person does not profess to follow Christ, her despair could be due to a lack of hope or purpose. A Christian can use this opportunity to share Christ with a suicidal person. When he comes to realize that his life has meaning and his future is in God’s hands, the need to end his life may vanish. If the Christian is unsure how to explain his or her faith, much help is available. Read with the suicidal person explanatory articles on becoming a Christian or being saved.
Sometimes the suicidal person is a Christian and has fallen into such a state of despair that God’s promises seem like fairy tales. This person also needs a medical and mental health evaluation and the presence of a caring friend or loved one. Despite our knowledge that what our suicidal friend is contemplating is sin, this is not the time to be judgmental. No one knows the depth of pain and depression that another is experiencing: “Each heart knows its own bitterness” (Proverbs 14:10). Empty platitudes such as “cheer up!” or “it’s not that bad” do not help. Often, the suicidal Christian is painfully aware of how wrong her desire is, which only adds to the despair.
It may help to empathize with the person, letting him know that he is not alone in feeling so low. Remind her that life comes in seasons, and she won’t always hurt this badly. A new and better season is coming if he can continue to walk through this valley. Direct her to the psalms that express the depths of human emotion. Read with him if he is too despondent to read alone. Psalms such as Psalm 6, 42:11, and 22:1–2, which Jesus quoted on the cross, help put into words our heart’s anguish. Remind her that Jesus knows what such despair feels like and He walked through it for us (Matthew 26:38). The suicidal person is not disappointing God due to feeling bad. Any condemnation is from the enemy, not God (Romans 8:1). We can gently remind her that despair is imagining a future without God in it, and He promises never to leave us (Hebrews 13:5).
We must keep in mind that, regardless of what decision a suicidal person makes, we are not responsible for it. Most of the time, family and friends blame themselves when someone they love commits suicide. This adds to the sorrow, but the blame is misplaced. Loved ones may have tried everything they know to do, but the final decision is not theirs. If someone is determined to end his or her life, there is nothing anyone can say or do to prevent it. We are each held responsible for our own actions. God does not hold us responsible for the choices of another. False guilt is the devil’s tool to steal our joy and future.
If you are considering suicide, please seek help now. Call 1-800-273-8255, the national hotline, get yourself to a hospital if you can, call 911, go alert someone in your home, apartment, or workplace, or wherever you are, and do whatever it takes to get help.
National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
To Write Love on Her Arms: http://twloha.com/find-help
Suicide hotlines available in most countries: http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html
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