Suicide Prevention

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It’s very real and it’s very possible. Often we see suicide as the only way out. It becomes an option for us. We can plot it, and entertain it. I have personally seen it first hand, and I understand its seductive pull. It seems logical. Suicide has become a real possibility.

We feel like a magnet; bad stuff gets pulled into our thinking, and we plunge into dark thoughts and a deep pain. I know, I’ve been down this road. I’ve had to walk through this stuff myself. It scares me. Once (or twice) when we make our way down this trek, it becomes easier and quicker to make the slide into what ending it all.

It happens to Christian believers. I was a pastor of a church and a teacher in a Bible college. I acquired a degree of having a competent religion but without real knowledge. I professed but never attained. There were moments though, when I got quiet enough to listen, that I knew it really wasn’t working.

Will we go to hell if we commit suicide? The answer evades me, and I can find no definite direction in scripture. King Saul in the Old Testament, and Judas in the New, are those who come to mind. Both men found themselves in a very ugly situation. There isn’t any positives for them both.

Somehow, deeply ingrained in our hearts, we know it’s wrong. Maybe it’s genetic or a societal convention. Deep down we know it can never, ever be an option. It’s completely beyond the pale. And yet, we arrive at a terrible point when it does seem it’s the only thing left open to us. We’ve become our own worst enemy.

“Suicide doesn’t take away the pain, it gives it to someone else.”

Suicide devastates those who are left behind. Our terrible pain gets passed to those who knew us; the closer they are to us, the more it will damage them. Husbands, wives, children and friends will know trauma first-hand. Our decision to die will scar their hearts forever.

We are all connected. We are each tied to each other. Family and friends, churches and communities. We all have relationships that, like it or not, bind us to each other. We’re not solitary entities existing on our own. Consciously or not, we effect others. We will never know the scope of our influence.

There are stages an afflicted person will go through. These are just generalities, but having been down this path I do see them as steps to self-destruction. They blend with each other and sometimes they can be slower or faster, depending on the individual.

Step One: Ideation.

Thinking about it, is it even possible?

Step Two: Fascination.

When the idea begins to become more real, more seductive. We see a burnished glory in it. Suicide seems like logical to us. It seems the only way out. (Besides, isn’t there a certain ‘hubris’ to killing yourself?)

Step Three: Planning

How am I going to do this? What method makes the most sense to me?

Step Four: Committing.

This is the final, ultimate step. Everything up to now is just setting me up for this.

One of the 10 Commandments expressly tells us that “You shall not murder.” Suicide is essentially “self-murder.” This I suppose, is the ultimate

Suicide is never logical. It’s a slide into that which is irrational. It isn’t normal to want to kill yourself. And it does seem that mental illness (schizophrenia, depression, anxiety etc.) can be an incredible factor. Physical illnesses or diseases also can make suicide logical. Or honestly, it can be a ‘blend’ of all that is listed here.

Suicide prevention

If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:

• Call 911 or your local emergency number. Get help as quick as you can.

• Stay with the person until help arrives. Don’t let them alone with their ‘demons,” real or imaginary.

• Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.

• Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell. All of these only increase the possibilities.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Most of all, PRAY! Get help from a pastor or elder of your local church. (That’s what they’re there for.)

Love,

Bryan

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Contemplating Suicide Is Not Selfish

Sept. 10,  is World Suicide Prevention Day. Why there is but a single day of the year devoted to preventing suicide, I do not know. We should endeavor every day to provide the hope the hopeless need to get them through the pain that leads to suicide.

Often we hear it said that those who kill themselves are selfish because they hurt the people they leave behind. But if you’ve ever had suicidal thoughts or tried to die by suicide, you know that is not the case.

If you never have, it is difficult to understand.

I’ve only been truly suicidal once, but my thoughts were far from selfish. At the time, my actual thought was that my husband and son would be better off without me because I was so depressed and broken that I was no good to them. I truly believed this terrible lie.

Thoughts of suicide often follow a long pattern of trying to get well with little or no success. It stems from hopelessness and a sense of feeling like you are a burden to those around you. To consider suicide is to desire to unburden others and put an end to endless pain.

Unfortunately, the thought processes of a person who is suicidal are just simply wrong. I know mine were. I can’t imagine where my husband and son (who was 1 ½ then and is 26 now) would be if I had gone through with it. They certainly would not be better off. That thought was a lie.

There is always hope, even when things seem the most hopeless. What a person struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts needs is love and hope. They need understanding and reassurance that the rest of us would not be better off if they were gone. They need to know we are there for them and that they matter to someone.

They need to know that God loves them and wants what is best for them, and that “This too shall pass.” But in the meantime, we are there to be a shoulder to cry on and a heart to confide in.

Jamison and Steel: Interviews on Suicide

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NAMI’s Interviews With Danielle Steel & Kay Jamison

Last year, Steel published His Bright Light, a memoir of her son, Nick Traina, who committed suicide at age 19 after a life-long battle with bipolar disorder (manic depression). More recently, Jamison has published Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide, combining research, clinical expertise and personal experience to explore one of the world’s leading causes of death.On February 8, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Resources, Education & Related Agencies will hold a hearing on suicide prevention that will include testimony from best-selling author Danielle Steel and Professor Kay Redfield Jamison, author of several academic and popular books on mental illness.

Interviews with Steel and Jamison have appeared in “Spotlight,” a special supplement to The Advocate, the quarterly publication of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). Conducted by NAMI executive director Laurie Flynn, they offer a possible preview of Steel and Jamison’s testimony on Tuesday. Excerpts follow below.

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Dr. Kay Jamison

NAMI’s Interview with Kay Jamison
Spotlight (Winter 1999/2000)

NAMI: What do we know about the linkage between suicide and mental illness?

Jamison: The most important thing to know is that 90 to 95 percent of suicides are associated with one of several major psychiatric illnesses: depression, bipolar illness, schizophrenia, drug and alcohol abuse, and personality disorders. These are obviously treatable illnesses. Another thing people don’t think about enough or emphasize enough is that because cancer and heart disease hit older people, they are seen as lethal illnesses. Because the age of onset for mental illnesses is very, very young, people don’t tend to think of mental illnesses as the potentially lethal illnesses they are. It’s important for people to understand that they have an illness to begin with and then that they get good treatment for it.

NAMI: You have spoken specifically of suicide and college students.

Jamison: Yes. Suicide is the second major killer of college aged kids. It’s the second leading killer of young people generally.

NAMI: You also have pointed out that, worldwide, suicide is the second leading killer of women between ages 15 and 45. These statistics are staggering, yet most people don’t seem to be aware of it.

Jamison: Absolutely. Across the world. There are almost two million suicides a year worldwide. I think people just don’t have any sense of the enormity of it. Suicide unfortunately has been so individualized and, because of the early suicide movement in this country, so separated from mental illness. People working in the field of suicide concentrated on existential factors and vague sorts of things, when in fact the underlying science is very clear that they’re associated with a few mental illnesses.

NAMI: Knowing what we do about illness and its treatability allows us to be able to discuss preventing suicide.

Jamison: Right. [U.S. Surgeon General] Dr. David Satcher’s emphasis has been very strong on three fronts. One is public awareness. Secondly, intervention and all that’s involved in making doctors and others more able to ask the kinds of questions needed to uncover mental illness. And then, thirdly, to support the science that’s necessary to study suicide.

NAMI: What else can policy makers and public officials do?

Jamison: I think we have to have public officials talking about it. When you have someone like Jesse Ventura out there saying these outrageous things-I think it’s really beyond the pale-we’ve got to have the president of the United States saying look we’ve got a real epidemic here, and there’s something we can do about it. People are dying from not gaining access to treatment-or from having three days in the hospital, and then going out and dying.

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DANIELLE STEEL

NAMI’s Interview with Danielle Steel
Spotlight (Winter 1999)

NAMI: “His Bright Light” is a very personal story about a very painful subject, the mental illness and death of a child. What did you hope people would learn by sharing your story?

Steel: I hoped first of all that people would come to know my son, and learn what an extraordinary person he was. I wrote the book to honor him, and to share with people what a remarkable person he was, in spite of his illness. I also wrote it to share with people the challenges we faced, so that they feel less alone and less isolated with their pain, in similar situations. I wrote it to give people hope and strength as they follow a similar path to ours.

NAMI: What did you learn from this painful tragedy?

Steel: I’m not sure yet what I learned from the tragedy, except that one can and must survive. But from his life, I learned a great deal about courage and perseverance, and love.

NAMI: Lots of people in America might be facing signs of a mental illness in one of their children. What about Nick’s behavior made you realize that it was more severe than just the normal growing pains of a child?

Steel: Nick was different. Always. His moods were more extreme. I sensed from early on, that despite his many wonderful qualities, there was something very wrong. I knew it in my gut, as I think many parents do.

NAMI: How long did it take for Nick to be diagnosed as manic-depressive and receive treatment for that condition?

Steel: Nick was not clearly diagnosed as manic depressive until he was 16, a good 12 years after we began the pursuit of the causes for his ‘differences’. He received no medication until he was 15, and did not receive the most effective medications until he was 16. A long and very painful wait for all concerned!

NAMI: Prior to knowing of Nick’s manic depression, what did mental illness mean to you? Did you associate stigma with mental illness?

Steel: I don’t think I realized, before Nick, that one could still be functional, or seemingly functional, if mentally ill. I thought of it as something totally incapacitating, and of people who were shut away. I don’t think I realized how intelligent and capable mentally ill people can still be. I’m not sure I did associate a stigma with mental illness. It just seemed like a sickness, and not necessarily a shameful one. I just thought of Nick as sick, whatever it was called, and wanted him to be cured.

NAMI: How did Nick deal with the knowledge that he had a mental illness?

Steel: For a long time, Nick himself was in denial about his illness. And eventually, he accepted it. In the last year, he told people he was manic-depressive. Before that, when he felt ‘normal’ on medications, he believed he was cured. He had a hard time accepting at first that he would be manic-depressive all his life.

NAMI: Are schools able to cope with the mental illness of a child?

Steel: In most cases, I don’t believe they are. It is a huge challenge for all to meet, and certainly hard on the other kids to have one child acting out. We were very lucky, in Nick’s high school years we finally found a wonderful school that understood the problem, accepted him as he was, and was willing to work with him in a framework he could cope with. They were remarkably flexible and creative. But for most schools, it’s asking a lot to expect them to adapt to a mentally ill child.

NAMI: If you could tell a family member who is caring for someone who is mentally ill one thing, what would that be?

Steel: Never give up. Get the best help you can. Keep trying, keep loving, keep giving, keep looking for the right answers, and love, love, love, love. Don’t listen to the words, just listen to your heart.

NAMI: What do you think support groups like NAMI can do for families coping with the mental illness of a loved one?

Steel: I think groups like NAMI can provide support, both emotional and practical—the knowledge that you are not alone. And resources, where to go, who to talk to, what works. You need all the information you can get, and it is just about impossible to do it alone.

NAMI: Stereotyping the mentally ill as violent and dangerous is pervasive in America. How do we change this perception?

Danielle: Information. Obviously there must be some mentally ill people who are violent and/or dangerous. But I suspect that most are not. Nick certainly wasn’t either of those, he was gentle, loving, smart, funny, compassionate, extremely perceptive about people, and very wise. I cannot conceive of Nick as ‘dangerous,’ although ultimately he was a danger to himself. But for the most part, I think the turmoils of the mentally ill are directed within and not without.

NAMI: What do you think the average American should know about mental illness?

Steel: I think most people should know how common it is…I also think people should know how serious it is when it goes untreated. And how potentially lethal it can be. It is vitally important to get good treatment, the right medication, and good support. If you let a bad cold turn into bronchitis and then pneumonia, without medication, it can kill you. If you do not treat serious diabetes, it can kill you. If mental illness goes untreated, it can kill you.

NAMI: We know that having “hope” is important to battling any disease. What hope do you see for people with mental illness?

Steel: I see a huge amount of hope. The medications today can give people whole, happy, productive lives. There are lots and lots of people with mental illness holding down good jobs, even with important careers, happy family lives, and doing great things. It is possible to lead a good and happy life if you are mentally ill. If those who are doing just that would speak up, it would give great hope to all those who are still groping their way along in the dark.

NAMI: What is Nick’s legacy?

Steel: Nick’s legacy is the love we had and have for him, the word we have spread of what a terrific person he was. In his lifetime, he touched countless lives, with his warmth, with his mind, with his music, with his words. Through his experiences, others have and will learn. Through the Nick Traina Foundation, hopefully we can bring help to others, in his name.

 

For more information or assistance, please contact NAMI at: http://www.nami.org/

 

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Psalm 13, Your Deliverance is Ready

Psalm 13, For the choir director: A psalm of David.

Five Questions

 1 “O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?”

Nothing is as stretching and painful as the belief that God has given up on you.  I have personally experienced this misbelief.  It was like my entire nervous system was ripped out of my body.  Suicide seemed a logical thing to do.

Sometimes, the struggle to remain a believer is difficult.  It is a war, often accentuated by depression and sadness.  It’s relentless and its arena of conflict is in our hearts.  David asks five questions.  They are the questions of the besieged heart when our abandonment seems possible.

 3 “Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
4 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.”

David recognizes that he needs God’s answer.  He also needs meaning to be restored to him.  The “sparkle”, or that joy of having a purpose is what gives life meaning.  Once you taste it, nothing else will satisfy.  Verse 3 tells us that David saw this as a “life or death” matter.

Furthermore, David could see that the enemies of his soul had gathered.  They spoke with a common voice, reflecting a unified purpose, “We have defeated him!”  We must be cognizant of the reality of evil around us.  God has a will for your life, but so does Satan.  It involves your corruption and destruction.

5 “But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
6 I will sing to the Lord
because he is good to me.”          ~~New Living Translation

We fast-forward ahead to David’s deliverance.  He has an uncommon confidence in the character of God.  David’s declaration, He rescued me and He is good to me!  Both verses 5-6 illustrate that worship finds its root in times of personal emancipation.

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