Suicide Risk in the Christian Church Day 7: Resources to Equip
I trust that this study has been from a Biblical perspective. It is certainly a topical study and not expositional. Because of that, there are no explicit verses to point to in order to specifically (in context) address suicide risk in the local church. So, this is an area where we have to use scriptural principles to guide. Several verses come to mind, as I’m sure they do for you as well.
“Bear one another’s burdens.” Galatians 6:2 (ESV)
“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” 2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV)
“But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess.” 1 Peter 3:15 (NET)
“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14 (ESV)
First of all, I’d like to share some basic principles in helping others who may be dealing with suicide. These general principles can be found by googling most reputable sites like Mayo Clinic, NIMH, and others. These recommendations would be best suited for church leaders. Parent to child and friend to friend may have some varied nuances, but can be applied. It can certainly feel overwhelming to talk with someone who is contemplating suicide, so here are some basic things to keep in mind:
- Asking someone if they are thinking about suicide does not give them the idea or encourage them to do it. Professional research supports this. It could actually be the question that saves their life.
- If asking or discussing, always remember to frame the questions or comments with love, care, and tact. You could begin with words like “I’ve noticed that…; Because I care about you…; This is hard for me to ask but because you’re important to me…”
- Stay calm. The best way to do this is to silently pray both before and during the conversation. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable for a few minutes. Be prepared and don’t panic.
- Be prepared with resources. This includes numbers for trusted local mental health agencies. Do your research now. Don’t wait until you need the info. Every church leader should have two to three dependable counselors’ referrals at hand, ready to be distributed.
- Start now with building relationships. Do not let your first interaction with a fellow Christian in the last six months be about this sensitive topic unless you have no choice. I’m sure you understand.
- Deal with it now. If you think someone might be considering death by suicide, take action. We can regret a lot of things in life but failing to intervene in this important area is not a regret you want to have weighing on your conscience.
- Be humble. If you suspected someone was suicidal, you intervened, and you were wrong—that’s OK. The person might feel betrayed, angry, or hurt. However, as time passes and you have an established relationship, it should be understood that this was the caring and responsible action to take in the circumstance.
- Be approachable. We dealt with this in an earlier post. Build sincere relationships. Practice authentic Christianity. Admit your own faults publicly and personally within reason.
- Be vigilant. If someone admits to you that they have a plan to carry out a suicide attempt, you must not leave this person alone until they have checked into an emergency room or you call 9-1-1. This may sound severe, but this is the safest option.
- Take it seriously. Maybe you think the person is just looking for attention and isn’t actually serious about it. That may be the case. However, you are not in a position to make that decision. A trained professional should evaluate. See #9. This may sound extreme and cause some hurt feelings, but it may also be true that the person saying those things needs to learn that it is not something to say with levity. With proper explanation and a solid relationship, it should be evident that these issues are considered soberly,so that it would not discourage future discussions.
Other practical resources that church leaders should have available to them:
The Pastor and Counseling: The Basics of Shepherding Members in Need (2015)
Thoughts of Suicide by Josh McDowell (2000) https://www.target.com/p/thoughts-of-suicide-friendship-911-by-josh-mcdowell-ed-stewart-paperback/-/A-82014882
Focus on the Family: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/tag/suicide/
Alive to Thrive: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/alive-to-thrive/
You will also need to do some research on a good (Christian, if possible) counseling agency in your area. First, use the internet to search for those that have good recommendations. Second, ask other Bible-teaching and gospel-preaching churches in your area whom they recommend. Third, follow up with those whom you know have been through some local counseling to see how it went and if they would recommend referring others there.