What role does suicide awareness have in the ministries of today’s church community? Consider Tony, an active member of your men’s bible study group. He’s a successful executive with two teenage sons, attends regularly and actively contributes to discussions. Lately, he seems withdrawn, and his participation decreases dramatically. As his pastor, you take him aside after class one evening and ask if all is ok. He shares a string of problems all centered around losing his job. He comments that he should “end it all” so that his family can use his life insurance proceeds to move on without him.
What should you do? When someone talks about suicide, you may not know what to do or if you should take him seriously.
When one is struggling with depression and other illnesses that may lead to suicide, his world can feel bleak, and hope can be hard to find. In the New Testament, we read many stories about Jesus healing others of their physical illnesses or impairments. But does this apply to mental health?
When addressing suicide, it’s very helpful to become aware of several myths.
When talking with your church community about suicide, it is important to use appropriate language than conveys hope rather than judgement. Be direct. Talking about suicide won’t cause the person to act on suicidal thoughts. Talking will help them feel less isolated and scared. Be hopeful. People can and do get better. Remind them that God loves them and wants good things for them. Encourage them to seek help. Resources and treatment are available for every situation, regardless of financial means, geography, or family support.
Dr. Scott Engle reminds us that suicide is not a mortal sin and is not aligned with God’s will. As Christians, we are mandated to help others and provide Christian counsel, just as Jesus sat with people in their pain. When you feel the nudge of “something’s not right,” remember that you are not alone; let the Holy Spirit guide you and give you the right words to console, comfort and support.
Beacon of Light is developing a comprehensive mental health programming and curriculum to equip churches everywhere to better meet the mental health needs of their communities. Contact Beacon of Light here to access programming as it becomes available.