Thinking About Suicide

The following is a version of my column in the Rome Sentinel on Saturday, October 26.

The Bible is honest about the human condition. The writer of Psalm 88 gives voice to those who feel there is no reason to go on living.

“My soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to the Pit. I am like those who have no help, like those forsaken among the dead, like those you remember no more. You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a thing of horror to them.”

In 1982 I was a youth minister in Knoxville, Tennessee. Jim Henderson was an elder, a leader of the Hall’s Crossroads Presbyterian Church. One day Jim was at home alone. He had had a satisfying career, lived in a comfortable home, loved his grandchildren. But he had never told anyone at church of his struggle with depression, worsening since he retired. That day, he put his pistol to the side of his head and pulled the trigger. Jim didn’t succeed in killing himself, but destroyed his left eye and lost half the sight in his right. Everyone at church regretted they had not talked about suicide and depression before, as they embraced Jim and Marie as Jim recovered from his injury. No one blamed him, shunned him, or judged him. They loved him and supported him and his family as he found help to deal with depression.

Among adults eighteen and over in the United States, it’s estimated that at least ten million people reported having suicidal thoughts in the past year. That’s only the number who reported having such struggles with wanting to die. The vast majority of gun deaths in the US are from suicide.

On Saturday, November 16, at 10:30 AM Lori Robinson will speak on suicide prevention at First Presbyterian Church in Rome. Lori is a retired Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, trained in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training. Probably more importantly however, Lori is a 2 time suicide survivor, losing both her father and a very good friend to suicide within 11 months.

Have you ever been stunned when someone in your world takes their own life? Or tells you about a person they were close to who committed suicide? Those affected by suicide respond with confusion, fear, and despair. We struggle to make sense of it. We are shocked by unexpected, self-inflicted death. Guilt is common for survivors as they struggle to understand.

For a long time, people who ended their own lives were judged harshly, looked upon as having done something unpardonable. Their families felt they could not talk about what happened. But there is nothing in the Bible that condemns suicide. To the contrary, God knows our weakness and despair, and hears our cry.

People often believe suicidal thinking is shameful, a belief that isolates and silences those who have something important to say and need someone to listen. Lori’s presentation will provide help to talk openly and give a hopeful message to people who are considering or who have considered suicide, people who are concerned about someone else who may be considering suicide, and people who want support in thinking about how to reinvent their lives and start again. We are learning to provide support for people who struggle with depression. Come join the conversation and help to provide hope and healing.

I hope you’ll join us on November 16 at 10:30 AM in the dining room. A pot-luck lunch will follow. Join us whether you can bring food or not. There will be plenty!

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