Statistics say that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. According to Dr. Karen Mason, one of the myths that we believe about suicide is that we can’t do anything to prevent it. She points to a biblical example of suicide prevention found in Acts 16:28.
“I’m thinking of the Philippian jailer where the earthquake happens while Paul and his companion is in jail. Paul yells out to the jailer, ‘don’t kill yourself!’ I think that’s such a great example of a suicide intervention and prevention where Paul prevents a suicide actually from happening by just speaking out.”
Dr. Mason says that engaging in conversations is one of the first steps to preventing suicide and monitoring those at risk.
“That is one of the first steps, primarily because it is really hard to know where somebody might be on that continuum in terms of, are those thoughts strong or not strong at this point in time?”
She shares a hypothetical example,
“If I was planning to go on a trip to France; if I just sort of dream about it, that might be sort of the first step on the continuum. But if I actually make a plan and get out my calendar and say, ‘This is going to happen on thus and such a date,’ then I’m much farther along on the continuum to actually getting on a plane to France. If I actually buy those tickets, the I’m really far along.”
“If you think about the suicide continuum in the same way, usually those thoughts initially are a little bit vaguer in terms of, ‘Would I even follow up on them? How would I do that?’”
Communicating with the person considering suicide will provide us with a clearer sense of where they are on the suicide continuum and can help to prevent suicide.
“Having the courage as Paul had to speak up to this person and ask them, where are you on that continuum? Not that Paul did that, but he intervened because he had a sense for the seriousness of the situation.”
Online training is also available and is a great way to gain an understanding of the suicide continuum. Dr. Mason offers a few helpful online resources,
“Livingworks.net is a good website that offers training to people around trying to figure out where on that suicide continuum a person is, or the QPR Institute. There are a number of different really great training resources for people.”
Together, we can help to prevent suicide by speaking out with the love, care, and concern of Christ.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for free and confidential support: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Karen Mason (PhD, University of Denver) is associate professor of counseling and psychology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a psychologist working in the mental health field since 1990. She previously managed the Office of Suicide Prevention for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and is a member of the American Psychological Association. She is the author of When the Pieces Don’t Fit and Preventing Suicide: A Handbook for Pastors, Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors.Suicide prevention