What is Suicide?
“A sense of hopelessness or inescapability, combined with a pattern of poor coping, a limited tolerance, and a flight from help coalesce in some manner to form suicidal intent.” – Jeffery S. Black
- Suicidal intent cannot be related to a single cause factor.
- It is the overflow of a number of other unresolved problems.
- The person is hopeless that things can ever get better, and he lacks the coping skills to continue trying. Suicide feels like a better alternative at that time – Prov 14:12.
- In 2006, suicide was the 11th leading cause of death in the United States (33,300 died out of 800,000+ attempts), one every 16 minutes
- Suicides outnumber homicides
- More men than women die but more women then men attempt suicide
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death between the ages of 15-24 years
- Half a million teenagers are reported to attempt suicide every year
- More Vietnam vets have killed themselves since 1974 than actually died in combat
- More than 5,000 seniors kill themselves annually
Examples of Suicide in the Scriptures:
- Saul: for pride over losing a battle and fear of torture (1Sam 31:4)
- Judas: for guilt and shame over betraying Christ (Mt 26:14,15; 27:1-5)
- Ahithophel: because his advice was rejected (2Sam 17:23)
- Abimelech: he did not want it to be known that he was killed by a woman (Jdg 9:50-55)
A Biblical Perspective on Suicide:
- We are image bearers for God (Gen 1:27; Jas 3:9)
- We are to honor the temple of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 6:19)
- Murder is condemned in Scripture (sixth Commandment)
- God is sovereign over all life (Job 1:21)
- Suicidal intent is not the “unforgivable” sin
- No human being can prevent suicide because of the free will of man to make such a choice
Suicide: “The Preventable Death”
What Can I do to Help? Know the warning signs.
- Talk of suicide in general
- Specific verbal statements such as, “I wish I had never been born.”
- Preoccupation with death, terminal illness, graveyards, wills, burial plots etc.
- Giving away of valuable possessions, i.e. pets
- Planning for the care of dependents
- Change in eating, sleeping, or grooming habits
- Sudden state of euphoria following a long depression: “calm before the storm”
- Withdrawing from others or from favorite activities
- A lack of fear of death, taking risks
Even higher-risk indicators:
- History of drug, and or, alcohol use
- Victims of physical, sexual, or verbal abuse
- Being investigated for criminal charges
- History of depression or other “Mental health” issues
- Those who have previously attempted suicide
- A suicide survivor (when someone close has committed suicide)
- People who have perfectionist type personalities
- Those experiencing recent significant loss through death, divorce, or relationship break-up
- Childhood history of frequent moves
- Firstborn in families
What do I do first? Encourage the person to talk to you (Jas 1:19, 20).
- First listen, then move from asking general to specific questions to determine suicidal intent.
- Be aware that the more detailed the plan and the more access they have to their method of choice, the more likely they will follow through.
- Be compassionate; consider the depth of their pain and suffering (Lam 3:22-24). Remember suicide is not so much about wanting to die as it is not knowing how to live with the problem.
- Get their perspective: Life without ______ is not worth living because_____? (1Cor 10:31).
- Give them hope that there is a solution to what to them seems unsolvable (1Cor 10:13). You help them or take them to someone who can help find that solution. Suicide: “The Preventable Death”
- Help them to see any influences from outside sources (music, friends, reading materials etc.) that might be contributing to their hopelessness (Psalm 1, 1Cor 15:33).
- Help the person realize that suicide is the ultimate act of self-love to avoid painful consequences (2Tim 3:1-2).
- Help them see that suffering is a part of God's will to refine us in Christ, with the goal to change their focus from escape to contentment (Php 4:11-13).
- Don’t attempt to manipulate through shame, but bring them back to God’s purposes for them (1Cor 4:14).
- Continue to encourage them through church ministries, serving and being served (Gal 6:1).
- Ask to determine if they are actually saved and point them to hope through the Word (Ro 15:4).
Finally, consider this…
- Talking to someone about their suicidal intent will not encourage them to attempt suicide. Instead, it typically communicates interest and hope because you cared enough to ask.
- People who have suicidal intent will usually not try and hide it from others – you just need to be willing to ask.
- Trust God to use you as His Instrument of Hope to someone who needs help (Lk 10:25-37)!