Suicide - The Loss of Hope and Social Connection
What is the Church's Role in Helping Those in Need?
By Patty Cole
June 11, 2018
First, there was Kate Spade. Then there was Anthony Bourdain. Then there was Richard. And Michael. They are not all famous. But one thing they do have in common, they are all God’s Children.
When a celebrity dies by suicide, how does it make you feel? I cannot speak for anyone else, and I cannot speak for my church. So, I will tell you how I feel. I am sad. I am so sad to think that they were so distraught that they could not think of any better way. From my vantage point, they had so much - money, successful careers, people who loved and adored them. In many eyes – they had more than most. But then this happens. We non-celebrities remember that wealth and fame ultimately do not matter. The most important thing to remember, is we are all God’s children. We are all the same. And I am sad for them.
Despairing of life is a general human problem, and each of us must draw near to God in faith and hope that he will help us through the difficulties of life. On average, 123 people a week die by suicide. Every week. We don’t hear about the others on the news. Like Michael and Richard. They died this week by suicide too. And I am sad for them as well.
In our recent workshop on suicide, we heard this quote from the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. David Litts, MD:
“People consider suicide for many reasons, but they all come down to two: a loss of hope and a loss of social connection.” Social support and connection are vital protective factors against suicide. Positive and supportive social relationships and community connections can help buffer the effects of risk factors in people’s lives.
Our presenter drove home that point - a loss of hope and a loss of social connection.
The next thing that she said made a strong impression on some of us in the workshop. I will have to paraphrase because I cannot find it in my notes, but I believe she said: “If the church cannot provide hope and social connection, then it may as well close its doors.”
It was a call to action for those of us in the audience that day; all of us members of different congregations. I do not have the solution for suicide. I do not have all the answers. But I do believe that God calls us to look after one another and do our best to offer hope and social connection. While we must protect physical life, Jesus commanded that we also show love and seek peace with others.
"Let me give you a new command: Love one another.
In the same way I loved you, you love one another.” (John 13:34)
Life is a gift from God and a stewardship entrusted to us for a time. Therefore, we have a moral obligation to live and to promote life in others. We can do that. And we can pray for all the Kates, Anthonys, Michaels and Richards of the world. May God be with all who struggle. And may we “Be the Church” in offering hope and connection.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Learn more about detecting early warning signs at Soul Shop Movement.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always there – 1.800.273.8255.