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Suicide: Understanding and Intervening (Resources for Changing Lives) Paperback – April 1, 2003
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One resource that was recommended to me was Suicide: Understanding and Intervening by Jeffrey S. Black.
The author begins by explaining how difficult it is to understand the suicide of a Christian: how can the Christian commits suicide when a Christian has the hope of the Gospel? His answer is that for a Christian to commit suicide, he or she must take his or her eyes off the light and truth of the Gospel (2).
He explains that the reasons a person commits suicide are legion, but the descriptions are largely the same: "psychological pain, interpersonal alienation, and hopelessness" (3). Ultimately, he says that suicide is the choice to sin. If we are focused on Jesus, suicide is not possible, he argues (3-4).
He looks at Paul is an example of someone who endured great suffering and yet did not commit suicide. He says Paul did not commit suicide because (1) he saw purpose in his suffering, (2) he was future oriented, and (3) his life was daily renewed by the Holy Spirit (6).
He argues that telling someone who is suicidal that suicide is a sin is rarely helpful. However, discussing suicide to reveal a person's worldview may be a way to reach into him or her (7). In examining the Christian worldview, one discovers that all people are creatures created and belonging to God, all people are created in the image of God, and therefore it is sin to commit suicide (10).
He defined suicide in this way: "suicide is the product of a continuous transaction between the person's heart, his symptoms of depression, the levels and types of stressors in his environment, and the strategies he uses to cope with his depression and life circumstances" (13). The person believes that the pain he or she is feeling is too great to keep living. This pain is associated with some sort of "felt need," and he or she believes there is no way to change his or her circumstance (14ff).
He argues there are five ways in which one can help someone who is suicidal: first, acknowledge that his or her pain is real. Second, help him or her discern that the pain being felt is due to the lack of a "felt need." Third, challenge his or her beliefs that are leading to suicidal thoughts. Fourth, help him or her discern that there is hope. Fifth, help him or her to understand that some "felt needs" are sinful or are caused by sin (18-23).
He then discusses how to assess the risk of suicide. In assessing the risk, the question is about being observant: what do you see the person doing, is he or she isolating him or herself, is he or she abusing drugs or alcohol, is the person talking about suicide, as the person attempted suicide in the past, and so forth (24-31).
I appreciate this work for its argument that it is biblically and rationally sinful to commit suicide. I also appreciate the end of this little book in which the author talks about our need to really know and care for those around us - to be observant and to be ready to help in times of need.
This is not a book I would give to someone who is suicidal: I have a feeling that this book is more likely to anger or upset someone considering suicide - of course, this book is written for those trying to help those who are considering suicide.
As useful as this book is, I'm not sure my question has been answered: perhaps the answer is "to love one's neighbor" - to be extremely intentionally involved with people around us, such that when a person is so emotionally distraught that he or she will receive our being there and listening, even if we don't know what else to offer.