Pastors, You Need to Know How to Spot Suicide Risks

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Can you see the signs when a member of your congregation is really hurting?
Can you see the signs when a member of your congregation is really hurting? (iStock photo)

He was a business acquaintance and a good friend. We did not commonly spend time together outside of necessary meetings, but when we did there was a mutual enjoyment of each other's company.

From the outside looking in, his life seemed to be perfect. The father of two children, he had a marriage that seemed to be well established and a good career. I had no idea of what was behind the curtain.

He and his wife were having some real issues that stemmed from financial pressure. At dinner one night he made some comments about being depressed and gave a slight peek at some of the difficult issues he was facing. As someone who had struggled with suicidal thoughts in the past, I should have recognized the warning signs. Although it crossed my mind, I just couldn't bring myself to believe that he was the type of man who would ever end his life.

I was completely devastated when I got the call a few weeks later that he had hanged himself in his bathroom. The screams of his wife through the telephone will never be forgotten nor will the guilt that I carry for not being more proactive. Sometimes it's incredibly difficult to see how dark the tunnel is that many people are trying to navigate.

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Unfortunately, the situation I just described is not an anomaly. There are multitudes just like my friend who are silently suffocating in a bubble of regret, guilt and depression they do not know how to escape. The past, impossible to understand, is too difficult to face, and the future is viewed as nothing more than an inescapable, hopeless, never-ending torture chamber.

Maybe, just maybe, I hurt and understand because I already walked the same grueling trail when I was 21 years old—a time when my greatest fear wasn't dying; it was living. A painful season when it appeared more unreasonable to just exist than it did to put a gun to my head.

Thankfully, God had other plans for me. When my roommate who was supposed to be at work unexpectedly came home, my plans were thwarted, and I was set on a path that eventually led me to hope through a real and personal relationship with Christ.

There are many others who need this same hope I found. Suicide is a pandemic that affects the young and old, rich and poor, Christian and non-Christian community. No one is immune.

Unfortunately, suicide is widely misunderstood by pastors, educators, school workers, family and friends—the very people who could offer true hope. It is important to become aware of the myths surrounding suicide so the church can help provide the truth and help the suffering individuals most in need:

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