I think that few people have not been so depressed where they have had thoughts of ending their life. Mostly such thoughts are just ‘feeling sorry for myself’ … but sometimes they continue towards either attempting or committing suicide. World Suicide Prevention Day is commemorated annually on 10 September (which is today). I would like to make reference to material written by Dr Nyambeni Matamela, a clinical psychologist and lecturer at one of South Africa’s Universities (I have selected portions of the document to present here). He writes:
Suicide is a public mental health problem with significant personal, social and economic implications. Globally, approximately one million people die by suicide annually, with experts estimating that for every person who dies by suicide, 20 more make an attempt to take their lives. The loss of someone as a result of suicide leaves a huge gap on many levels, with family members and loved ones left with feelings of devastation, unanswered questions and trauma responses.
The journey towards suicide can be swift (sudden and impulsive) or gradual. In most circumstances, suicidal behaviour occurs on a continuum, ranging from thoughts of killing oneself (suicidal ideation) to more active, focused behaviour directed towards ending one’s life (planning a suicide or engaging in deliberate self-harm with intent to die, for instance) and ultimately to actions that lead to death. Adversities such as poverty, marital/relationship problems, work stress, bullying, physical illnesses, psychological disorders and sexuality stigma could all be implicated in suicide. The Covid-19 pandemic – with its impositions such as job losses, the death of loved ones, the anxiety of being infected or gender-based violence – is yet another significant factor. …
Most people will return to previous levels of functioning and well-being, or can positively accommodate adverse events by finding ways to deal with it. However, others might negatively appraise adversities and find it difficult to move forward. Someone who is stuck in negative appraisal of stressful events or circumstances could resort to suicidal behaviour as an act of shutting off consciousness or escaping from psychological pain. An individual’s decision to take their life is often fueled by feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, an attack on their self-esteem and a negative outlook on their capabilities. …
Unfortunately, society still tends to maintain silence around mental health problems. This could be due to the stigma attached to admitting painful experiences and emotions as well as seeking professional help. Preventing suicide has to start with destigmatizing mental health consultations or the act of seeking support.
(Here is a link to the original article.) Should you know of such a person who has intent to end their life, a good reference for help is The SA Depression and Anxiety Group (0800 567 567) or Lifeline (0800 121 314). These services are available to anyone. They are available 24/7, they are free, and they are confidential.
We are faced with many who struggle with suicidal thinking because of a few real issues … one being mental conditions that could be sparked by many things. This is mostly treatable with the person resuming a normal and productive life in the family, career or studies. I would suggest that the most ignored yet most important factor is the spiritual condition people find themselves in. Depression, despair and feelings of hopelessness are often promoted in one’s mind because of sin. This is how it tends to work … I sin (whatever the sin is). In my heart and conscience, I realize I have sinned and disobeyed God. I feel awful, dirty … even revolting. Often, no matter what I try, this ‘sin’ becomes repetitive and habitual and the feelings of disgust increase and impact the mind to the point where I feel more than miserable. I feel I am imprisoned, chained, in bondage in a dark tunnel of doom.
Dishing our Bible verses to such a person could be more cruel than helpful. Yes, they need Scripture, but more importantly at that moment they need someone trustworthy to talk to. Someone who is able to listen, make encouraging comments and eventually provide Scripture (Rom 8:1-2, Ps 55:22 and 1 Pet 5:7 are good verses, and there are many more), and pray intelligently with them. Pray for people like this … we could easily have been in their shoes.
Dear God, empower me to help the desperate, loving them as You loved me. Grant me wisdom in these matters so that I respond with gentleness, kindness and love. Lord, sin is a killer. Help me to help sinners like me. Amen.