• Suicide Prevention and Awareness

    Photo Credit: BarnAlliance.org

    Photo Credit: BarnAlliance.org

    Norman watched from the shade of the porch as his father walked slowly toward the barn to do the milking. Clouds of dust swirled around his father’s boots as he scuffed through the dry earth. In a few hours he’d return to the house, and the family would gather at the table for dinner.

    His father stopped before he swung the barn door wide and glanced back toward the house. Norman clattered down the stairs and toward the garden. Dad expected Norman to finish the weeding before he finished the milking.

    But three hours later, Dad hadn’t returned to the house. Norman made the long walk to the barn with his older brother. Something inside him had told him his little brothers and sisters would need to be spared.

    He was right. Eleven-year-old Norman and his fourteen-year-old brother carried the body back to the house alone. The trauma of their childhood loss would echo through the lives of their children and their children.


    American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

    According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), 20% of us will experience the suicide of a family member.

    Sixty percent of us will experience the loss of someone we know through suicide. Unfortunately, in my husband’s family, suicide was a shameful family secret. Dan didn’t learn of his grandfather’s suicide or the family predisposition to depression until he was nearly thirty.

    And as the family members who cared for Norman in our home in the final years of his life, we didn’t fully understand the relationship between trauma and mental illness until several years after his death. Unfortunately, we found that the church struggled to help us understand mental illness, depression, and suicide and how to integrate our faith with the most painful areas of real life.

    Facts and Figures

    • In 2010, the suicide rate in the U.S. was more than twice the rate of homicide (12.4/100,000 compared to 5.3/100,000).
    • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for Americans.
      • 2nd leading cause of death for college students
      • 3rd leading cause of death for those between 10-24
      • 4th leading cause of death for adults
    • The suicide rate is four times higher for men (78.3% male and 21.7% female). However, females ATTEMPT suicide three times more often than males. —American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

    Risk Factors

    • Mental health conditions (bipolar, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, anxiety disorder, psychosis)
      • 90% of those autopsied who died from suicide over the past 50 years suffered from a major mental health condition.
    • Substance abuse
    • Eating disorders
    • Chronic pain
    • Aggressive or impulsive personality
    • Recent hospitalization for depression or attempted suicide
    • History of childhood sexual abuse
    • History of chronic abuse or being bullied
    • Drug use
    • According to the National Center for PTSD, trauma increases an individual’s suicide risk.
      • The National Comorbidity Study found “a robust relationship between PTSD and suicide after controlling for comorbid disorders.”
      • According to the National Center for PTSD, “Some studies that point to PTSD as a precipitating factor of suicide suggest that high levels of intrusive memories can predict the relative risk of suicide (9). Anger and impulsivity have also been shown to predict suicide risk in those with PTSD (15). Further, some cognitive styles of coping such as using suppression to deal with stress may be additionally predictive of suicide risk in individuals with PTSD (9).”
    • Exposure to another person’s suicide
    • Access to lethal means
    • Prolonged stress factors (harassment, abuse, bullying, relationship problems)
    • Stressful life events (death of a loved one, divorce, job loss, abandonment)

    Anyone is at risk for committing suicide, regardless of ethnicity, education, social status, or income level.

    Warning Signs for Those who Are at Risk

    • Talking about killing themselves
    • Feeling like they have no reason to live
    • Feeling trapped
    • Feeling like they are a burden to others
    • Unbearable pain
    • Hopelessness for the future
    • Divesting themselves of possessions

    What Can We Do to Help?

    1. Show compassion. Begin with “Tell me your story–what happened to you?” rather than “What’s wrong with you?” “Prevention may be a matter of a caring person with the right knowledge being available in the right place at the right time.” American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

    2. Create understanding. Help destigmatize mental illness. Work toward trauma-informed care in churches, schools, hospitals, the workplace.

    3. Help create resource networks. For more information, join the Suicide Prevention and Awareness Conference being offered by Saddleback Church on November 22, 2014, in conjunction with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. To participate with the conference via YouTube, click HERE. Saddleback is leading the nation in creating networks among faith leaders, police, first responders, educators, mental health leaders, armed service personnel, and educators–networking that is critically needed.

    4. Reach out. Learn more about suicide prevention and how you can help. Worried about what to say to someone who think might be thinking about suicide? Learn more here about what to say.

    More information in our next post on how to interact with a friend, student, or colleague you think might be suicidal.

    For a spoken word and music resource for someone who’s lost a loved one to suicide, check out Chaos of the Heartproduced by MusicfortheSoul.org.

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