Regular readers of my blog know that I recently lost a former partner and 23 year friendship to suicide. The topic of writing a blog post to help other people surviving a loved one’s suicide or do suicide intervention/prevention came up a couple of times. I have had experience doing successful suicide interventions in the past but I am still mourning the loss of Michael. I just couldn’t bring myself to write this post until now.
If interested I wrote, “I love you Michael, Always” as a tribute to him. I am also writing this post in honor of not only him but in honor of all of us who were deeply impacted by his suicide. While it may be posted today, I do see this as a living document and I will edit and add resources and links as I learn more. Also, please feel free to offer your own feedback, questions, and resources in the comments or contact me privately.
I have had experience in helping several people who were considering suicide. Early on, before I was ordained and leading various support groups, a fellow group member claimed to be suicidal. Watching them work through that inspired me to learn more. As a result, when someone has shared they are suicidal I think I have the ability to not only do what is “appropriate” but to be truly present, not freaked out, and helpful.
The situations in the past were rare and only three occasions over 20 years of ministry escalated to the person wanting to go to an emergency room. In these situations I knew that the best I could do is be a caring, listening friend. To encourage them of their inherent worth, not argue, and recognize when they needed a professional skill-set that I don’t have. I asked them to let me take them to the emergency room or to call the authorities. I did say that I was not going to leave until we both knew they were not a danger to themselves and in these situations we ended up at the emergency room.
And to this date, because of God’s grace, the amazing help they got at the hospital, and resulting after-care, they are alive and well. I have also had a few online people I don’t know offline contact me over the years feeling suicidal. In every situation I try to get as much information I can about their name and location then immediately call the local authorities in their area for advice on what to do. Then I simply follow their (the authorities) instructions and of course pray.
Michael is the first person I have known to actually go through with it. I was not aware he was even contemplating suicide … my heart breaks every time I think about that. This is the first time, and hopefully last time, I will experience the loss of a loved one to suicide. I can’t speak with any true objectivity from this angle so I will stop there. Got to live through it first and maybe more will come later.
In one of the ER’s visits I mention above they had a highly respected LGBT suicide intervention program. This program was literally around the corner from where we were. This guy was very serious about killing himself as soon as we parted ways. I asked him to consider talking to the LGBT unit and he, a conservative Christian with SSA (same sex attractions) said, “But they are pro-gay, aren’t you afraid they will convince me to be gay?” I said that the only thing I was afraid of was him dying that night. Plus, I was not “afraid” of people identifying with particular labels in a way that I don’t. I turned the subject back to him and said, “Your life is your life. If they can help you find the coping skills you need to be able to live and engage your future, I will be forever grateful to them for helping you.” I also offered to talk about anything he wanted to talk about after they helped him but for him to not worry about me or my opinions, just do what he needed to do to stay alive.
He went and they were very respectful of his right to self-determination. They helped him develop better coping skills and as far as I know, 15 or so years later, he is alive and well. I am forever grateful for that LGBT unit’s ability to help him.
Truth be told, there are not a whole lot of Christian based resources to help in the actual moment of crisis. The best programs out there for suicide prevention are secular. I firmly believe that any good is a gift from God and if He chooses to use a secular resource to help save a life … He’s big enough and sovereign enough to do that. I firmly believe that Christians should not hesitate in referring to secular suicide prevention resources.
Organizations: here is a list of organizations that help with suicide prevention …
Mental Health Officers - A reader of this blog messaged me privately saying, “if someone thinks that someone else is attempting suicide – you can call any police department and tell them you need the mental health police. It’s much more understanding than regular cops. They arrive in plain clothes and are armed with counseling skills, but have authority to force someone to get help.” I had never heard of mental health officers but it would make sense.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – their mission statement, “The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Since its inception, the Lifeline has engaged in a variety of initiatives to improve crisis services and advance suicide prevention.” … ”1-800-SUICIDE All calls from 1-800-SUICIDE have been routed through the Lifeline network since March 2007.”
They also have a Veterans Crisis Line, “Since 2007, the Lifeline has been providing special suicide prevention service for U.S. military veterans through an agreement with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) and U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). When dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255), veterans, active military, and their families are prompted, during the automated greeting, to press “1” to be connected to a veterans suicide prevention hotline specialist located in the VA call center in New York.”
Suicide Prevention Care Fund (SPCF) (Christian) – as of this moment I just learned about this group but their about page indicates they are a Christian organization. From their “About” page, “Compassionate Care: We provide compassionate support to families and friends who have lost someone to suicide and to honor the memory of those who have died by suicide. … People who have had a friend or family member commit suicide experience deep feelings of loss which are different from the feelings experienced from the death of a loved one by illness or accident. They may have feelings of abandonment, guilt, intense anger and/or sadness. They may even feel shame or embarrassment. …We work to eliminate the stigma, guilt and shame of suicide. Go read their whole About Section.
The Trevor Hotline (LGBT and Youth) – from their website, “History of The Trevor Project: The Trevor Project was founded in 1998 by James Lecesne, Peggy Rajski and Randy Stone, the creators of the Academy Award®-winning short film TREVOR. Set in 1981, TREVOR is a timeless coming-of-age story about love, loss, and learning to be yourself.” …
When TREVOR was scheduled to air on HBO®, the filmmakers realized that some young viewers might face the same kind of crisis as Trevor and could use support. They searched for an appropriate lifeline number to broadcast with the film but no such number existed. On August 8, 1998, James Lecesne, Peggy Rajski and Randy Stone opened the Trevor Lifeline. Since that time, The Trevor Project has become a national leader providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth.
In addition to operating the only national crisis lifeline for LGBTQ teens and young adults, Trevor offers unique suicide prevention services to youth in digital spaces, including counseling via instant message through TrevorChat and the largest online social network specifically for young LGBTQ people, TrevorSpace.”
List of Suicide Prevention Lines from Around the World (Wikipedia) – When I clicked through I thought the list would be longer but it does have a list of resources available in Australia, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
HelpGuide.Org - Very practical breakdown of all the important factors: Warning Signs, Risks, Gradation of Severity, Do’s and Don’ts, Tips. I like this page because it visually breaks up the material in a way that a person skimming for specific answers could find them easily. However, I would encourage you to read the whole piece.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) - From their website, “NAMI has recently created an Emergency Department Resource Toolkit of educational brochures around suicide prevention and the emergency department. The Toolkit features three brochures — one each for individuals who have attempted suicide and their families about the importance of obtaining follow-up care, and one brochure for medical professionals who work in emergency departments. The brochures for individuals who have attempted suicide and their families are also available in Spanish. ” NAMI also has a very good and succinct article on what to be aware of when talking with someone who is suicidal. It is called, “Suicide: Learn more, Learn to Help.” NAMI was recommended to me several times during the initial days of mourning Michael. I found the NAMI resources to be informative and helpful.
Christian Viewpoint Articles/Resources
GriefShare.Org – While not specifically focussed on suicide, this organization comes highly recommended by a reader of this blog in helping people live through their grief. I checked out their website and they have more than a few resources that look very helpful along these lines. The person who recommended them said that their “A Season of Grief” Daily Emails were very helpful.
Is Suicide Unforgiveable? - an article in Christianity Today. I personally agree with this article that it is in fact forgivable.
Again, I want to add as many excellent resources and organizations as I can to this post. Please feel free to give your feedback, ask any questions, or recommend any further resources or articles in the comments here on the post or contact me privately. Thank you.
And it needs to be said again, I love you Michael, Always.