SUICIDE: Ways to Help Prevent Tragedy

Suicide. It’s nearly impossible to understand, but there are ways to help prevent it. This article, written by Sherry Allchin, MA, and listed on Heart2Heart Counselor Directory, gives hope to any counselor or a family member who provides care to a suicidal person. This article appeared first on Biblcal Counselor Center’s website and is used with permission. 

NOTE: Always dial 911 immediately if you suspect

someone has attempted suicide or plans to attempt suicide!

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Prevention strategies don’t always work. Someone who’s determined to die sometimes is “successful” and dies. It’s sad, tragic. 

A while back,, I talked with a parent whose teen is struggling. Her 15-year-old friend killed himself after several years of bullying by other teens at school.

Could his death been prevented?

Why would a person we love want to end their life?

And what is our responsibility to help and how can we?

The Why of Suicide

When someone attempts suicide, it is not really that they want to die, but rather that they just don’t know how to live and have lost all hope that life will get any better. They have chosen to take matters into their own hands to end the pain they feel.

We as family and friends, or as counselors, can make a world of difference by our responses to their struggles and by knowing the warning signs. We may not save everyone from suicide, but if we can save even one, it’s worth finishing this blog post. Share it with your friends and family.

Grim Suicide Statistics

Did you know that suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States? That’s one death by suicide every 15 minutes! It is the third leading cause of death between the ages of 15 to 24 years, with half a million teenagers attempting suicide. More than 5,000 seniors kill themselves annually.

What Are Some Warning Signs?

A person considering suicide often shows several (though not all) of these warning signs.

  • Talking about dying. Giving away valued items. When a person talks about suicide or death or makes statements like “I wish I had never been born,” and starts to give away things they have valued, or planning for the care of pets or dependents, be alert and ask more questions.
  • Changes in habits. Burst of energy. Withdrawal. Recklessness. Another clue is a change in eating, sleeping or grooming habits, or a sudden burst of energy and joy from someone who has been depressed for a long time. This energy burst may indicate that a suicide decision has been made and a calm before the storm). Also be alert to the withdrawal from favorite people or activities, or being reckless with dangerous activities.
  • Other warning signs. Other high-risk indicators includes a history of drug or alcohol use, physical or sexual abuse, or being in some kind of trouble. When there is a history of depression and antidepressant drugs are given, some people have the side effect of suicidal desires. Also, those who have previously attempted suicide or who have a close friend or relative that has committed suicide are more likely to try.

How to Help Prevent Suicide

Encourage the person to talk to you and really listen (James 1:19, 20) to determine suicidal intent. The more detailed their plan and the more access they have to their method of choice, the more likely they will follow through. Be compassionate as you hear their pain and suffering (Lamentations 3:22-24).

The faithful love of the Lord never ends![b]
    His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
    therefore, I will hope in him!” Lamentations 3:23

Remember suicide is not so much about wanting to die as it is not knowing how to live with the problem. So they must gain a sense of hope, a reason to live, a hope that there is a solution to what to them seems unsolvable (1 Corinthians 10:13).

If you don’t know how to help them, take them to someone who can help find that solution. A pastor, school guidance counselor, a biblical counselor, and a doctor or the hospital ER are a few who can often help.

The book of Ecclesiastes shows us that life apart of God is not worth living. Each one of us must ultimately come to a place of trusting Christ as their personal savior and starting to grow in their trusting God’s Word for answers to their life problems. Help them see that suffering is a part of God’s will to refine us in Christ, with the goal to change their focus from escape to godly contentment (Philippians 4:11-13).

As they begin to change, they will find their place of service among God’s people, helping others to realize that suicide is the ultimate act of self-love to avoid painful consequences (2 Timothy 3:1-2) and sharing the hope they have found in Christ.

Must I Get Involved?

Talking to someone about their suicidal intent does not encourage them to attempt suicide. Instead, it typically communicates interest and hope because you cared enough to ask.

Jesus commanded us to get involved with our neighbors (Luke 10:25-37, Matthew 22:36-40) and to restore a struggling brother to usefulness (Galatians 6:1-5). Trust God to use you as His instrument of hope to someone who needs help!

As righteousness leads to life, so he who pursues evil pursues it to his own death. Proverbs 11:19, ESV

Now What?

Foremost, if you suspect that someone is suicidal, call 911.

If he or she shares with you feelings of hopelessness, encourage them to talk. As mentioned, talking to someone about suicide communicates hope because you cared to ask, to notice, to help. This doesn’t encourage suicide.

If you don’t know what to say, bring the person to a pastor, biblical counselor, school guidance counselor, doctor, or the hospital ER. Tragically, someone intent of killing himself or herself will find a way to be “successful” and die.

When someone attempts suicide, it is not really that they want to die, but rather that they just don’t know how to live and have lost all hope that life will get any better.

Be a hope giver. Stand in the gap.

Counseling Heart to Hope and Healing,

Help for “Harmless” Addiction!

addictionIsn’t it true that addiction may look harmless?

Yet anything that enslaves you harms you. Thank God, He empowers you to overcome an addiction.

Hard work helps. Workaholism harms.

Eating good food — satisfying. Bingeing for comfort — sad.

Clothing your kids in cute outfits rocks. A shopping addiction hurts.

Karrie’s story

Driving her minivan to the mall, Karrie* told herself she’d buy only one outfit for her seven-year-old daughter. She had made this promise last week and broke it. “I can do it this time,” she pep-talked. Three hours and many shopping bags later, she collapsed on her couch and cried. “I can’t do anything right.” (*not her real name)

Her challenge? Overcoming an addiction by loving God most of all.

What’s an Addiction?

An addiction is a bondage of the heart and body to something that produces immediate pleasure or relief. This bondage becomes increasingly destructive over time. It rules the heart, promising the sensation of pleasure and the avoidance of pain.

Addictions have an object, such as:

  • Visual stimuli like pornography or television;
  • Ingested substance like food, alcohol, or pills;

Indulging in addiction brings short-term pleasure. But in the long term, the soul and body experience pain and decay. Relationships suffer. Bank accounts shrink. And the lie of “just one more” deceives.

Disconnected!

If you think Christians are immune to addiction, think again. When our craving conflicts with Scripture, we don’t always live according to what we say we believe. Karrie says “Jesus is Lord” at church on Sunday, and on Monday she itches to shop. Her husband says he loves his wife yet views pornography.

This disconnect is described in Scripture. In Romans 1, the apostle Paul says,

“We all know many things about God and his law, but we suppress those truths when they interfere with our wants and desires,” writes Ed Welch in Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave.

“As a result, it is as if we practice two religions. We believe one thing, but really believe another. . .(that) we can make the laws we live by, not God.”

When you or I reject Christ’s rule, we become enslaved to something. We exchange the wonderful for the unholy because we want self-rule. The created thing enslaves us. We become cold to God.

How to Get Free

Most important to overcoming an addiction: Invite a stronger power to rule. Consider Jesus’ question,

Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? Matthew 12:29

Here are two more important ways to overcoming addiction:

1. Pray to be mastered by nothing but the Lord and pursue knowing Christ.

2. Confess your sin and repent, or turn away from addiction. You cannot go half-way. You need to totally eradicate it.

Now What?

If you love Christ, then you have everything you need to overcome an addiction.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 1 Peter 1:3

Yet spiritual battles cannot be won alone. Addictions like to stay private. God invites people dealing with addictions of any sort to share their struggle with the church of Christ. The church is people who say Jesus is Savior and are growing in their love for God and one another.

Yes, the church is full of sinners. Yes, some churches have significant problems. But a Bible-believing group of believers will welcome the hurting and help them.

And some people struggling with addictions want the advantages of biblical counseling too.

If you’re interested in someone coming alongside you, listening to your story, and helping you find hope in Christ, please contact me or one of the vetted biblical counselors listed in Heart2Heart Counselor Directory.

 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:20.

Blessings of hope for your heart,

Instant Gratification Trap (part 1)

instant gratification 1INSTANT GRATIFICATION: Our instant gratification mindset has snuck into the counseling office, says guest writer Shannon Kay McCoy, a biblical counselor listed on Heart2Heart Counselor Directory here. Often counselees want quick fixes. But Jesus wants something better! Shannon’s article appeared first here and is used with permisison. (Slightly edited for length.)

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Instant gratification is not a new phenomenon. However, our expectation of “instant” is now faster than ever.

So how long will you wait for that cute cat video to load? I love cute cat videos, but if the video has not loaded after 10 seconds, I’m out! I move on to another site that has piqued my interest. And when I order something on the internet, if the shipping time is too long, I check to see if it is on Amazon Prime and order it there to get it in 2 days, even though I do not necessarily need it in 2 days.

And do you remember dial-up internet? I won’t even go there.

Instant Gratification Defined

Instant gratification is satisfying a desire immediately, without delay or deferment. It is the opposite of waiting. It is satisfying short-term pleasure instead of enduring the pain of long-term gain. Indeed, instant gratification often manifests as the ultimate in impatience. In fact, it is the difference between those who have the mindset of “strike while the iron is hot” versus “good things come to those who wait.”

Unfortunately, our culture feeds our innate desire for satisfaction now. With the wonderful inventions of computers, smartphones, and tablets, we can connect to anything we could possibly want. And this includes a selection of all types of entertainment on Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, a library of eBooks and audiobooks, and real-time local and world news at the touch of a button.

Instant Gratification and Quick Fixes

How does the need for instant gratification affect the counseling ministry? We may now have the dreaded feeling that instant gratification and counseling do not coexist. To be a Christian is to be set apart from a self-centered existence to a Christ-centered existence. We no longer live for ourselves.

Galatians 2:20 states the theme of the Christian life:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

The believer’s life is characterized as living by faith in Jesus Christ and not living in the flesh, which craves instant gratification.

Also, Christians often get caught up in the instant gratification mindset in ministry. In the counseling room, the counselee wants a quick fix to a problem and the counselor wants the counselee to change instantly. An instant gratification approach to counseling is detrimental. And just as we demand instant feedback on social media and 2-day shipping, we demand that God fixes the negative circumstances and change people immediately.

If God does not come through fast enough, then we will find another way to resolve the problem—often leading to an even worse situation. The result of such impatience is stress, frustration, anger, fear, discouragement, and despair.

Downside of Instant Gratification

The instant gratification trap causes the counselor and the counselee to abandon the core spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, fasting, and fellowshipping with other believers. Prayer is abandoned because it takes too long to see results. Studying the Bible seems pointless when we can Google any question we may have. Fasting seems bad for your health. And fellowshipping is a waste of time when we have other things that need our attention immediately.

Truly, there is no quick fix to counseling a couple whose marriage was damaged by adultery. And one cannot instantly work through the grieving process of losing a loved one. You also cannot say “Stop it!” to someone who is addicted to painkillers. When we try to fix the problem quickly or push for change instantly, then the essence of the Christian life is missed.

The apostle Paul states the purpose of the Christian life in Philippians 3:10-11:

That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

The goal of counseling is change based on a relationship with Jesus Christ. The pain and suffering of life are meant to develop a greater intimacy with Christ and to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ. The counselor and the counselee also must be reminded of this truth. And we come to know Him better when we wrestle through the trials of life in this fallen world.

The way to overcome the instant gratification trap is practicing delayed gratification.

In Part 2, I will walk us through the process of delayed gratification. 

Questions for Reflection

How is your daily life affected by this instant gratification culture?

Also, is your spiritual life affected by an instant gratification mindset?

And in what way is your ministry/counseling affected by a desire for instant gratification?

ONLINE? Less Negativity, Please

onineONLINE? Facebook, Twitter, and other online sites drip negativity, don’t they? Where are the positive voices? Is this insightful post, counselor Ellen Castillo, listed here in the Heart2Heart Counselor Directory, shares thoughts on how we Christian women can choose winsome speech online. Her article appeared first here and is used by permission. 

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If you spend much time on the internet reading blogs and Twitter feeds and Facebook conversations, you might notice an overwhelming tone of negativity from Christians.

Many Christians use their online activities to express their views about the things they oppose. Lately, it seems easier to find posts that are about what the writer is against rather than what the writer is for. For example:

In the past few minutes, I have found online posts about what the Christian (who is posting on their social media) is against. Here are the topics that I just came across on my own Facebook and Twitter feeds, stating that the writer of each is:

  • against vaccinations
  • against people who are against vaccinations
  • against particular TV shows
  • against a particular Bible teacher
  • against a certain denomination
  • against a politician
  • against the people who are against that politician
  • against a celebrity pastor
  • against those who attend the church of a celebrity pastor
  • against a political party
  • against a company or store for their views
  • against people who share that company or store’s views
  • against people who live different lifestyles than they do

While searching a few moments ago, I also looked for posts about what the Christian writer is for. I noted a few posts simply quoting scripture, and one pro-life meme, but otherwise I found very few examples of redemptive language.

In our current political climate and culture, people don’t have to guess or wonder about what Christians are against. We are quite vocal about those things. I wonder, though, if they know what (or Who) we are FOR?

We feel frustrated because our viewpoints are so often squashed in this culture. I wonder if part of the problem is US, and our tone. Would we speak the same words that we are willing to write? To someone’s face? If so, what would the tone of our voice be, and what would our facial expressions reveal? Would someone see Jesus or just an angry Christian? Consider this:

Our written word should be consistent with our spoken word.

No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29, CSB

Redemptive Language

What if we made our tone more winsome, less negative, or more redemptive? Rather than simply posting and commenting and tweeting about what we are against, what if we focus instead on using redemptive language?

Redemptive language would be gospel-motivated and gospel-rich, bringing the reader’s attention to Christ, and to God’s Word.

We have a hope that is far greater than today’s current political, cultural, and moral climate. If we simply state what we are against, without giving a reason for the hope that we have, then isn’t our gospel witness hindered?

I am not suggesting we stop speaking to culture’s downfalls, or speaking against the things that are infringing on our rights. I am suggesting that we be more careful about our tone. Name-calling and nastiness are not winsome, and people stop listening around the first paragraph or at the first nasty remark. Loving and godly concern and hope are attractive, and I think people are more likely to listen and keep reading.

Why Does This Matter?

Our spoken words (and therefore our written words) reveal our hearts. If we tend to be negative and critical online, it is time to get honest about our motives for using the online platform to express our opinions. Many of our posts sound less like hope and sound more like this:

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. Matthew 15:18-19

When we are spoken to negatively, we will tend to remember that feedback more clearly than anything positive said to us. For example, we may feel insecure after public speaking. Ten people said things like “you did great” or “great job.” One person said, “you really should work on your speaking, I didn’t follow it at all.” We will tend to think of that one loud negative voice more often than the ten affirming voices.

It stands to reason that when we post in a negative tone on social media, it will stick in people’s minds more than the occasional post with a positive tone. You may think that you have accomplished what you set out to do – to prove your (negative) opinion is right. What you really did was reveal what you are against, without speaking enough about what you are for. This hurts our witness for the gospel because we are not addressing what, and who, we are FOR.

Offer Hope

Consider using your online activities in a redemptive manner. If you are compelled to share an opinion about something you are against, forgo name-calling and instead offer a winsome and compelling argument that is connected to the gospel in some manner. That will offer the reader HOPE. If we offer hope instead of just criticism, we may keep our audiences longer. If you have any kind of online platform, use redemptive language.

We have a hope that is far better than TV shows, politics, celebrity, and all of our opinions. Jesus is better.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. Hebrews 10:23-24

Consider

Have your written words been more negative than positive lately? How can you correct that? Will you purpose to post with a more hopeful tone?

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

PRIDE: Curing a Heart of Pride (part 2)

pridePride is at the root of nearly every problem we struggle with in counseling! In Part 1 you discovered the problem with pride. It this post, you’ll learn how to cure a heart filled with pride: namely, 1) admitting your struggle, 2) practicing humility, and 3) serving. Biblical counselor Julie Ganschow, the founder and director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center in Kansas City, MO, wrote this two-part series on pride. Read part one.

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Admit Your Struggle

First, begin by confessing, or admitting, to God that you struggle with the sin of pride. Confession is agreeing with God. You might pray a simple prayer similar to this one:

Dear Heavenly Father,

I confess to you that I struggle with the sin of pride in my heart and my life. This pride leads me to act out selfish desires and is hurtful to other people. I ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to change my heart so that I become selfless and learn to serve others as I consider them before myself. Thank You for the forgiveness that is mine through the Lord Jesus Christ, and I pray these things for Your glory. In Jesus name. Amen.

Practice Humility

The next step is to begin to practice humility, a denial of self. It is considering others better than yourself and requires an examination through the Word of God of the actions and attitudes of daily life.

Then He (Jesus) said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow Me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for Me, you will find true life. And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose or forfeit your own soul in the process?” Luke 9:23-25 (NLT)

Jesus displayed the ultimate in humility when He condescended to come to earth as a human being. He denied Himself and deprived Himself of heaven and all its glory for 33 years for you and me. Because our goal is to become like Jesus in character and attitude, we are to practice how Jesus lived His life. Jesus was described as “meek and lowly.”

Meekness is an internal quality that comes with humility. As a heart attitude, it is the opposite of pride. The one meek in heart is not concerned about self and readily puts the interest of others before his or her interests.

You should be known for the beauty that comes from (the hidden person of the heart), the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. 1 Peter 3:4 (NLT) 

Humility Is NOT Weakness

Being meek does not mean weak; in fact, it means just the opposite. It takes great strength to be humble before God and others. This really goes against the grain of the sinful nature. It is possible, however, for even the most prideful person to become humble. Humility is a fruit of the Spirit, and God joyfully responds to those who desire it.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Romans 12:3 (NIV)

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Romans 12:16 (NIV)

Pride begins to change to humility when we understand how despicable we actually are without Christ. Humility comes when we internalize the truth that nothing in the life of a Christian is to be about “me.” It is all about Jesus Christ and Him only. You cannot possibly dwell on “what I want” or “what I think is better or right,” and be able to serve others or ask what would bring God glory. Heart change begins to take place when we practice the principles in the verse below:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV) 

Serving Suggestions

Lastly, consider how you’ll serve others in the name of Christ. Here are some suggestions to begin to serve others:

  • Do one thing a day for someone you ordinarily would avoid.
  • Go out of your way to help another person.
  • Give up something you want to do for the sake of another’s pleasure.
  • Consider the opinion of a person you think is “beneath you” and follow his or her suggestion.

After practicing these suggestions, you will find joy returning to your life. Your world will open up to others as your heart opens up. As you continue to place others above yourself, your desire to serve them will grow, and life will become full of joy.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

 

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5 AMAZING NAMES GOD CALLS YOU!

Blessed, Daughter, Saint, and more!

In this delightful, four-color ebook, you’ll discover the precious names God calls you. Today so many Christian women don’t fully know their wonderful identity in Christ. Isn’t a time to know yours? Filled with scripture, photography, personal stories, and encouragement!

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