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Suicide Prevention

By John White, MA, LPC

Suicide is a complex and disturbing phenomenon. It is contrary to our basic instinct of survival. Yet the phenomenon dates back to the Old Testament. Elijah, fresh off a victory over pagan priests “…went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die…” (1 Kings 19:4) Fortunately for Elijah, an angel appeared and led him to a place of respite where he could rethink his desires. Today, a counselor’s office may be that place of respite. Unfortunately, too many people never get to that place. Indeed, in the United States, one person dies from self-harm every thirteen minutes. The old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is appropriate here as suicide generally is preventable.

There are two prongs to suicide prevention. Protective factors are the first prong. This in essence, means creating an environment where suicidal thoughts and actions are less likely to occur. While there are a variety of factors, research reveals two particularly prominent ones. The first protective factor is connectiveness, especially family connectedness. When individuals feel a part of something bigger than themselves they are less likely to entertain suicide. These individuals are generally happier and the impact their actions will have on their family acts as a deterrent. Concurrently, individuals with strong family ties are generally able to talk through their struggles with other family members. If necessary, the family generally acts as a conduit to professional help. The second protective factor is church attendance. Research tells us that people who do not regularly attend church are eight times more likely to commit suicide. Suicidal individuals see no hope for a better tomorrow but those who attend church experience hope in Christ. Indeed, the apostle Paul writes: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you abound in hope” (Romans 15:13). Church attendance also creates additional connectedness and support, not unlike what is found in close families. Similarly, it serves as an additional conduit to professional help if necessary.

Intervention is the second prong of suicide prevention. More often than not suicide is preceded by depression or another significant emotional disturbance. Depression is more than the occasional “blues” that we all suffer. It is a persistent “down” or “negative” mood that may be present over a period of months. If you or someone you know experiences this, it would be a good idea to seek professional help. At Agapé Christian Counseling. we have counselors available that can help individuals overcome their depressive thoughts and restore healthy functioning. Early intervention can prevent depression from spiraling down into the hopelessness that often precedes actual suicidal thoughts.

NOTE: All threats of suicide should be taken seriously. If you or someone you know has reached that point, please call 911 immediately.

You may also want to listen to this radio interview with our Executive Director on the topic of teen suicide.