A few weeks ago, my pastor husband preached a message on Galatians 6:2. “Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ,” the Apostle Paul wrote. The word “burdens” means a weight so heavy that you would be crushed underneath it without help. As a counseling agency, Covenant Counseling Center believes strongly in helping those we serve to bear their burdens. Pain is lessened when it is shared. The principle of bearing burdens is especially relevant when it comes to suicide prevention. In the sermon last week, Dr. Hood gave an illustration of a capital campaign consultant in Texas who helped our previous church design and implement the capital campaign to build a new educational space for our church. The campaign was successful and the consultant was excellent at following up with the church and helping to ensure its success. A couple of years after the campaign, we heard that the consultant died by suicide. As it turns out, he had fallen into some financial trouble which was difficult for him as a financial consultant. He had helped numerous churches in the area who would have been happy to help him during this time of struggle, but he did not contact any of them or speak to any of the friends he had made during this process. He tried to bear a burden that ended up crushing him because he did not share it.
September was National Suicide Prevention Month. Dr. John Draper, Director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (suicidepreventionlifeline.org), wrote that more people are dying from suicide each year in the U.S. than are dying in car accidents. Suicide numbers exceed 39,000 annually. Federal surveys reported that over 11.5 million people seriously considered suicide, 4.8 million planned to kill themselves, and over 2.5 million people attempted to kill themselves (http://M.Huffpost.com/us/entry/5790342). In spite of this, suicide is preventable. Data tells us that in the overwhelming majority of cases, most people gripped by intense suicidal periods do not die by suicide. They find help and get through it, and go on to experience life in ways that their despairing mind could never have imagined. These seemingly miraculous but typical stories of hope and recovery are the stories of suicide prevention, and are the ones we rarely hear about.
One in 17 of U.S. individuals (5-7%) is thinking about suicide at any moment. There are several high risk groups that are more likely to die from suicide. The highest age group is 45-64 year-olds quickly followed by age 85+. Other high risk groups are teens and young adults (ages 15-24), Native Americans, men, veterans, and individuals using or abusing drugs or alcohol. There are risk signs which include previous suicide attempts, having a mental health diagnosis or a history of mental health issues, having a family history of suicide, access to a means of suicide, impulse control problems, physical illness, and a local epidemic or a series of suicides (contagion effect).
Individuals who are contemplating suicide may reach out to friends or family. Using the acronym TALK, they may need to TELL someone about their thoughts of suicide. They may need someone to ASK about their thoughts of suicide. They may need someone who will LISTEN to their thoughts or feelings about suicide and they may need someone to help KEEP them safe from suicide.
There are behaviors you can use to help prevent suicide. You can communicate:
“I’m here when you need me” (immediate access to help).
“I care enough about you to remove things that could threaten your safety” (reducing access to lethal means).
“I care enough to about you to stay with you”, check on the individual from time to time, and let them know that you are thinking about them (Follow-up care).
If you are reading this article and are being crushed under a burden, we encourage you to talk to someone around you about it or call:
National Suicide Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
If you would like to schedule an appointment at Covenant Counseling Center, please call 423-247-4536.
Paula Hood, MA, LMFT
Therapist, Covenant Counseling Center