Ministering to the Suicidal – Tips

Everyone has stray thoughts, now and again. It’s good to know the warning signs that someone may need help immediately. These can include:

  •  Physical or psychological changes.
  •  Withdrawal from friends.
  •  Giving away personal possessions.
  • Making statements such as, ‘I’d be better off dead.’

One misconception is that raising the subject will put the idea in someone’s head. Another is that if someone discusses suicide, they’re less likely to try. Both of these are unfounded. Raising the subject can help, and any suicidal statements should be given serious attention.

The urge to commit suicide doesn’t necessarily mean someone wants to die. It means they are in great pain, and they want the pain to stop. And, just like when someone who is queasy cannot imagine eating a delicious meal, someone who is depressed may not be able to imagine what it would be like to feel happy. But people can and do recover fully from bouts of serious depression.

An article in The New York Times – The Urge to End it All – on July 6 2008 made the strong case for us to reduce the means available for suicide. For teenage boys, you may find that this means telling the parents to take away the car keys.  Consider the following story: after the British government set about making the supply of cooking gas much less toxic (and less deadly, less useful as a suicide device) the number of suicides in England dropped.  Unburned coal-derived gas has high levels of carbon-monoxide, so putting one’s head in an oven was an easy way to kill oneself from the 1950s, and accounted for about 2500 suicides every year, or half the country’s total suicide count.  As natural gas was phased in, reducing the available carbon monoxide to nearly zero.

“During those same years, Britain’s national suicide rate dropped by nearly a third, and it has remained close to that reduced level ever since. How can this be? After all, if the impulse to suicide is primarily rooted in mental illness and that illness goes untreated, how does merely closing off one means of self-destruction have any lasting effect? At least a partial answer is that many of those Britons who asphyxiated themselves did so impulsively. In a moment of deep despair or rage or sadness, they turned to what was easy and quick and deadly — “the execution chamber in everyone’s kitchen,” as one psychologist described it — and that instrument allowed little time for second thoughts. Remove it, and the process slowed down; it allowed time for the dark passion to pass.”

See our other posts on suicide prevention, and visit one of the many excellent suicide prevention website resources, where that is the sole focus. Getting educated just may save a life.

Categories Stormy Issues | Tags: | Posted on December 22, 2009

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