Helping Hurting People
We live in a broken world. People are hurting. As Native Americans, our communities have the highest rates of suicide of any people group in the country. We die at a rate ten times higher than the national average. Most of us know what it feels like to lose a loved one to suicide. So many around us are committing a “slow suicide” with substance abuse and other high-risk behaviors. Many of us have experienced these same struggles ourselves. As family and community members, we are the “front line” to help prevent these senseless tragedies. Many times just one person can intervene and make a difference!
There once was a prison supervisor who was ready to commit suicide because he thought he was a failure; his prisoners had escaped. Then an unlikely person – one of the prisoners – simply spoke up and shared words of hope! This prevented the man from taking his own life (Acts 16: 25-30). We too can give hope to the hurting people in our communities (I Peter 3:15).
WATCH FOR WARNING SIGNS!
Families in today’s society are stressed. They face financial debt, marital problems, and parenting challenges; these can all have a great emotional and physical impact. Events such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or incarceration can take a great toll. Even special events and holidays can be stressful and can result in unfulfilled expectations. Sadly, there are more suicides around Christmas than any other time of year!
The CDC lists these twelve “suicide warning signs”:
- Feeling like a burden
- Being isolated
- Increased anxiety
- Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Increased substance use
- Looking for a way to access lethal means
- Increased anger or rage
- Extreme mood swings
- Expressing hopelessness
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Talking or posting about wanting to die
- Making plans for suicide
FIRST RESPONSE IS CRITICAL!
Communicate your concern and your willingness to help.
Ask your pastor or spiritual leader to help.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
Let him or her know that others too have struggled with great hardships but have come through difficult times with God’s help (II Corinthians 1:3-4).
MAKE YOURSELF AVAILABLE.
Genuine friends know that hurting people need more than occasional contact. They need more than material assistance. They need committed friendships. There is a deep emotional need to know that we are loved (Proverbs 18:14). A person may not want your help now, but perhaps later they will. People in a depressed, suicidal state of mind cannot be counted on to make wise decisions. They need a genuine friend to spend time with them and to help them put things in perspective.
PROVIDE HOPE FROM GOD’S WORD.
If the hurting individual welcomes Biblical counsel, then provide opportunities to receive encouragement in church, home Bible studies, or just meeting for coffee. The Bible is a limitless resource of encouragement and direction (Romans 15:4). The Bible is filled with examples of overcoming in God’s strength. Job lost his children, his money, and his health (Job 3:20-21, Job 7:15-16), but in God’s strength he began again (Job 42:10). David had many enemies who were trying to destroy him (Psalm 13:2-3), but with God’s mercies he endured (Psalm 136). Jeremiah faced persecution and discouragement (Jeremiah 20:18), but by faith he chose to continue in ministry to his people (Jeremiah 29:11-14). Paul despaired of life amidst opposition and suffering (II Corinthians 1:8-10), but by faith he shared God’s message throughout the known world (II Corinthians 4:8-18).
THE ULTIMATE SOLUTION IS FAITH IN GOD.
The Bible teaches us to trust God (Romans 8:28). To take one’s life would show a lack of faith in God. Suicide is contrary to faith. Faith in our loving God enables us to overcome the pressures and temptations of the world (I Timothy 6:12; II Timothy 4:7-8; I John 5:4). Many believers down through history were persecuted, tortured, and even put to death; they did not take the “easy out.” They “fought the good fight” to the end (II Timothy 4:6-8).