Today, Sept. 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day. The day has been marked each of the last 10 years as a way to raise awareness about suicide and how we can all prevent this tragic loss of life.
Like many pastors, I have walked into the emergency room to meet one of my church members in this situation. I will call him Robert. Robert was depressed because he was going through a relationship breakup.
The doctor in the ER had identified Robert as a suicide risk. Robert had not been attending my church for long, so I did not know much of his history. He told me that he had a history of mental health issues. He had a doctor and he would be willing to see that doctor and get on his meds, he said. He had been down this road before and he knew the drill.
Thankfully, we were able to help Robert because he had a support network in place and he reached out to us during a time of crisis.
Now Robert is much better. Not everyone’s story ends this way.
According to the World Health Organization, approximately 1 million people die by suicide worldwide each year. Approximately 5 percent of the world’s population attempt suicide at one time or another during their life. Among teens aged 15 to 19 it is the second-leading cause of death.
A publication for World Suicide Prevention Day states: “It has been documented that approximately half of the people who seriously consider taking their lives have been diagnosed with a mental disorder during their life, and that up to 90 percent of people who die by suicide have at least one psychiatric diagnosis. Among all diagnoses, depressive disorders are most commonly associated with suicidal behaviour, followed by substance-related disorders, schizophrenia and personality disorders.”
The report from the International Association for Suicide Prevention and the World Health Organization notes that one protective factor leading to the prevention of suicide is social connectedness and good relationships. More specifically, faith communities provide hope and spiritual grounding to persons who might be considering suicide.
Faith communities make a difference. People need hope. They need connection to God and to people who will care for them during times of instability. They also need caring professionals and lay people who will watch for warning signs and help them get the professional help they need when they are at risk for suicide.
We have a local survivor group in Toledo that is working to be an official chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. These amazing survivors hosted an “Out of the Darkness Community Walk” in Toledo on Saturday (Sept. 8), attended by more than 400 people. They will host an “International Survivors of Suicide Day” on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012 starting at 11:30 a.m. at the Toledo Elks Lodge, 3520 Holland-Sylvania Road, Toledo, (an RSVP is required; contact Rachel Valis at 315-806-4434 or nwohioafsp@gmail for more information.)
We have two local survivor support groups: one meets on the first Monday of each month, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. at Olivet Lutheran Church, 5840 Monroe Street, Sylvania. Contact Jodi or Clay Helper at 419-277-1946 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information; the other meets on the third Monday of each month, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at All Saints Lutheran Church, 5445 Heatherdowns Blvd, Toledo. Contact Sharon Donatelli at 419-243-9178 or email@example.com for more information.