In a study released by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States as of 2016. Eighty-four percent of those who commit suicide in the U. S. are white, and 77% of that number is male. The suicide rate has been on the rise between the years of 1999 and 2016, with rates varying from state to state. The increase of people committing suicide means an increase in loved ones being left behind, distraught, confused, with lives forever changed.
So, how can you or I help a person who has suffered the loss of a loved one due to suicide? Losing a loved one to suicide can be somewhat different than losing a loved one to a physical sickness or accident in that the act of suicide is totally preventable. Although losing a loved one to a major sickness or accident is devastating, the person who has passed away had no control over the circumstances in which he or she lost his or her life. When someone commits suicide, unless he or she is suffering a major mental health issue, that person made the conscious choice to end his or her own life of his or her own free will. This fact causes the loved ones left behind to wonder why the suicide happened and what could they have done to prevent the suicide.
First of all, there is nothing anyone can really do to prevent a person from committing suicide, and loved ones of a person who has committed suicide should never blame themselves for this act taking place. No one can totally control another person’s actions, and the act of suicide is something that the person who commits it has to answer for, not his or her loved ones.
One thing that we can do to attempt to help those who may be considering suicide is to look at risk factors for suicide in those around us. Some of these risk factors include:
- Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and certain personality disorders
- Alcohol and other substance use disorders
- Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
- History of trauma or abuse
- Major physical illnesses
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
- Family history of suicide
- Job or financial loss
- Loss of relationship(s)
- Easy access to lethal means
- Local clusters of suicide
- Lack of social support and sense of isolation
- Stigma associated with asking for help
- Lack of healthcare, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
- Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
- Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and Internet)
It is also important as Christians to be there physically and emotionally for those who have lost loved ones due to suicide. Here are some ways that we can support those who have lost a loved one to suicide.
- Listen to them while they talk about their feelings. It is important to listen to those who have lost a loved one talk about the various feelings that they have regarding the event. Do not say anything to discount their feelings, and try to listen as much as you can. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
- Be sensitive to the person’s feelings during special days such as holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays. Every day will be a challenge for a person who has lost a loved one, and holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, and other special days are no exception. We should be very sensitive and loving to those who have lost loved ones every day, and especially so on days that will be more challenging on those who have lost loved ones. We should treat those in grief as we would want to be treated ourselves if we were in the same situation. “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
- Offer to help those who have lost a loved one to do things around the house, run errands, take care of pets, etc. Helping others perform their duties around the house and elsewhere while they are dealing with the loss of a loved one to suicide is another way of helping to bear their challenges. This will give the loved ones time to process their feelings about their event, and to take time to rest. “Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).