September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Our work at Partners in Health and Wholeness, and with the NC Council of Churches, begins with the hope to see all North Carolinians thrive in daily living. We understand thriving to mean that our neighbors and friends all live whole, full lives and have the support to live as healthily as possible. We feel so strongly about this because we see each person as a beloved child of our God, the great Creator. Suicide is a painful loss that we pray and work towards preventing.
We need awareness because suicide is a difficult, often forbidden, topic. This isolates our neighbors that are dealing with suicide ideation, which is the preoccupation and thoughts of suicide. We also need awareness because too many families and friends have lost a loved one to suicide. Often, they feel even more alone in their grieving and loss due to the silence of suicide.
The United States loses 41,000 community members, neighbors, friends, family members, veterans, co-workers, classmates, teammates, pew-sharers, partners, and spouses to suicide yearly. This means 41,000 persons fought a battle unparalleled and lived daily in a world in which suffering was their main operative. This is heartbreaking. I understand this to be the opposite of the wholeness, peace, and prosperity as promised by Shalom.
Local congregations can help destigmatize suicide. The church has an amazing opportunity to be a refuge for those considering suicide or dealing with mental health concerns. There are many ways for congregations to learn the risks and warning signs of suicide. With that, there are trainings to help lay-people and clergy alike become informed on what to do in emergencies. One resource I highly recommend is the Mental Health First Aid USA course, by the National Council of Behavioral Health. In addition, the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ website provides abundant resources including an emergency hotline.
Join me in this continual work to bring awareness to suicide prevention. Our God loves and cares for our well-being too deeply to be afraid of this topic. With each conversation, healing and hope can occur. We want each person to know the vibrancy and love of their God, to experience the ultimate hope found in the shalom of our Creator. There is too much love, vibrancy, and flourishing at risk to be silent on suicide.