Today’s topic is heavy, but it is also necessary. WHether you know someone personally, or a friend of a friend, suicide is becoming an increasing problem. With suicide on the rise within and outside of the faith community, it is time we discuss this subject that for some is still considered taboo. Suicide affects individuals regardless of race, culture, gender, religious beliefs and socioeconomic status. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. What is also important to note is that suicide is not relegated to a particular age group. More and more youth are determining suicide to be the best option for dealing with the pressures of life. We need to explore why suicide occurs and how it can be prevented.

First, let’s explore the reasons for suicide. There is no single cause for suicide. It can and does occur for a myriad of reasons. Suicide can occur when a person experiences depression, anxiety, a sense of hopelessness and/or despair. An individual can become suicidal when their mental health goes unmanaged and unaddressed.

A person experiencing severe changes in behavior or beginning to engage in entirely new behavior that is uncharacteristic may be at risk for suicide. Other factors may heighten someone’s risk. These risks include but are not limited to: feeling hopeless, feeling like a burden to others, talk of suicide, increased substance abuse, insomnia, increased fatigue, giving away prized possessions, previous suicide attempts, family history of suicide.

In these and many other instances, it is important for the child or adult that is affected to understand that they have a support system and that their life has value. It is also important to take any warning signs seriously. Encourage a potentially suicidal person to seek professional help through a therapist, call a hotline and be willing to discuss what is bothering them.

Suicide occurs when an individual’s life stressors exceed their current coping capabilities. Many times for children, bullying, abuse and other forms of trauma render them unable to deal with their experiences if professional guidance is not applied. Never underestimate when a child or adult discusses their trauma or pain. Even if the situation seems insignificant to you, remember that our perception is our reality. Your support, love and listening ear may be just what a vulnerable person needs in order to overcome thoughts of suicide.

I also want to encourage leaders to remind their congregations, employees and circle of influence to get help when needed. It is absolutely OK to not be OK! Additionally, leaders should take time to ensure their own mental health is being managed on a consistent basis. Pastors, CEOs and community leaders are not exempt from struggling. At one point or another, we all feel anxious and overwhelmed.

The key is to speak with a trained professional at the onset of these feelings in order to ensure our emotions remain in balance. Suicide does not have to consume us, we can demolish it by continuing the conversation, being informed and looking out for signs. Together, we can greatly reduce the rate of suicide among our children and within our communities at large.

Be Well,

Dr. Mya