What Others Say

I have read your columns many times, have saved the ones that "speak" to me and reread them....... I just want to thank you for your inspired writing, illuminating faith and the day to day that focuses on God and His Son....
- Carol C.

Monday, April 15, 2013

When Suicide Strikes

The world was stunned two weeks ago when Rick Warren’s son, Matthew ended his life with a self-inflicted gunshot.  Author of one of the best selling books of all time, The Purpose Driven Life, with more than twenty-million copies sold world-wide, Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, have been open about their grief and the long struggle with their son’s mental illness that led up to his suicide. Warren’s church described Matthew as “an incredibly kind, gentle and compassionate young man whose sweet spirit was encouragement and comfort to many. Unfortunately, he also suffered from mental illness resulting in deep depression and suicidal thoughts.”

Virtually every family has been touched, directly or indirectly, by suicide and its painful aftermath. According to the World Health Organization, almost one million people die of suicide world-wide each year, a rate of 16 per 100,000, up 60% over the last 45 years. It is among the top three causes of death for those ages 15-44 and the leading cause of death for those ages 10-24. More teenagers and young adults die by suicide each year than by AIDS, birth defects, heart disease, cancer and influenza combined. Placed in historic context, we may well be experiencing a global suicide epidemic.

Mental disorders, especially depression and alcohol, are a leading cause. Suicide’s social stigma coupled with fear, embarrassment, grief and spiritual misunderstanding may contribute to our inability to address helpful solutions. But, increasingly, churches are seeking ways to help people who wrestle with this deadly emotional illness.

 Frank Page, President of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, lost his 32-year-old daughter to suicide in 2009. His book, Melissa: A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide, will be released June 1. He writes, “Did you ever wonder where God was when you sat up at night asking questions that had no solvable answers? Did you ever doubt His love and goodness? Did you feel abandoned by Him? Deserted? Alone?

“I understand if you did. I understand if you still do. Suicide is not a situation that lends itself to casual conversations with God. It hurts. And more than that, it seems as though He could have prevented it all if He'd wanted to. At those times when the loss seems the most impossible to bear, at times when you can't believe what your child is doing or has done to themselves, it can feel like God is nowhere this side of heaven to offer all that comfort His Word so confidently promises.

“But I can tell you by the testimony of Scripture, He is strong enough to weather our hot accusations against Him, patient enough to withstand our desire to seek distance from Him (though such a thing is, of course, theologically impossible), and compassionate enough to feel emotion at the deep, hollow anguish that can often stand between us and our tottering faith.”

If you are wrestling with suicide issues in your own life or among your family and friends, there are resources to help. Call the national suicide prevention hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255),  Boys Town hotline at 800-433-3000, or Christian Suicide Prevention at 888-667-5947. Visit www.texassuicideprevention.org or www.allianceofhope.org.

2 comments:

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  2. Bill -- I'm sorry, but this is the best you can do? Repeat some old news and well-worn cliches, then leave us with a phone number for a suicide hotline in TEXAS? Jeeze! Surely the flock needs more than that, especially at this time.

    You know, Christians in general, and the leadership in particular, turn a blind eye at the realities of "mental illness," and seem to have a built-in defense mechanism preventing them from facing the realities of healing a broken soul.

    And the "church" doesn't seem to be doing such a great job at that. Especially if you count divorce and other family struggles...

    But healing a broken soul, whether that soul belongs to an individual, a family, an organization, or a culture, requires stepping away from the situation, wiping the fog from our glasses, and taking a very critical and analytic look at the causes of the symptoms.

    And after all, "mental illness" is a catch-all phrase describing manifest symptoms generated by a broken soul. So the questions need to be, "What are the symptoms saying? What is the soul saying? What does the soul need?"

    Sadly, we have let our dogma, doctrine,and incredible ignorance of the psyche, combined with the current mental health system (which is being led by Big Pharma and a handful of men at the DSM office)tell us how to address the issues, rather than taking charge and doing the hard work - that hard work psychologists speak of, that difficult inward and honest look. We're not going to solve the problem of Christian suicide until we decide to look at it with clear eyes, and act accordingly.

    Suffice to say, no high-dollar doctor, no pill, no DSM - 3, 4, or 5 category, and no blind faith in prayer alone will address these problems with success.

    The only way forward, if we really want to understand "mental health" issues, is to look with glaring honesty at what our kids are telling us about what they need in order to live a life that truly tends to their souls.

    God bless and good luck ~

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