How do you respond to someone hitting Rock Bottom in life?  How can you tell when someone hides it so well?  

Question Persuade Refer

Back on March 28, 2017 the Healthiest Manitowoc Coalition sponsored a suicide prevention training program open to the community entitled “Question, Persuade, and Refer.” It was sponsored by USA Today and the Herald Times. The room was filled to capacity. There were parents, grandparents, and concerned citizens. There were those who have attempted suicide, there was a parent who lost a teen 25 years ago, and there were health professionals who deal with people who are fighting depression on a daily basis. There were countless people who were concerned about this growing epidemic in our own community, in the state of Wisconsin, and nationwide. There were two speakers who led the discussion throughout the night, and asked the difficult questions. What do you say? How do you approach the subject? How do you get the conversation started?

We watched a video of a man by the name of Kevin Hines who survived a suicide attempt. I encourage you to look up his video on YouTube to get the full effect of his seminar. He walked the audience through the mind of someone contemplating suicide. He walked them through how much his mind struggled with the idea of ending his life. He started out his journey by finding a video on YouTube telling people how to jump from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. He got the bus ticket and the whole time he was struggling to find a reason not to do it, and he was hoping someone would say something to him. He was an emotional wreck, and everyone on the bus could see it, but no one asked. The bus driver noticed he was upset, and yet he didn’t ask. A couple on the bridge asked this young man to take their picture, and he was crying uncontrollably while taking the picture, and yet they didn’t ask.

What type of question didn’t they ask? Are you ok? What’s wrong? Can I help you? Any one of those questions might have got the conversation going, a simple question that might have prevented this man from jumping. Kevin would be the first to tell you that he didn’t blame anyone but himself, and yet it begs the question do we always notice when someone is struggling, and are we ready to ask the question? Are you ok? How are you doing?

For many of you reading this letter you can recall when you were growing up that suicide was something you just didn’t talk about. It was taboo to even mention it, and if someone succumbed to suicide the name of the deceased would not be brought up for years if not decades, because the pain left after suicide is just so difficult, and that will never change. The ones who loved that person the most feel the guiltiest, because they didn’t recognize the signs or said something earlier. I’ve lost two relatives to suicide and the questions have lingered for years. Why? Why didn’t someone see it? What could I have done or said? My question is: how can we as God’s people get the conversation going?

What do you do when you see someone hurting? First of all see them through the eyes of Jesus. At one point in Jesus’ ministry when he looked out at the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36) When Jesus saw the people who were sick with disease and spiritually sick, his heart went out to them, and he began healing, teaching, and forgiving them. Jesus stepped in to do something. First of all see them, take notice of changes in mood or behavior, and have compassion like Jesus. Second of all, don’t be too busy to notice. One of the biggest issues we face is that we are so challenged by our busy schedules that we don’t see the needs that are right in front of us. We are so scared to do something that might take us away from our sacred schedule. All it takes is a simple question to get the conversation going. Take the time!

Question: are you ok? What can I do to help you? As the conversation gets going, at some point ask the question have you ever contemplated suicide?

Persuade: remind them how much they are loved. Remind them of the one who loves them the most. Remind them of passages like Hebrews 13:5b-6, this is God’s promise to you: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Or a passage like Jeremiah 29:11-14: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” The Lord loves that person you are talking too, and his plan is far greater than their own, but rest assured God wants to help them through this. And finally, if you feel inadequate to handle the situation…

Refer: I would say depending on the seriousness of the situation either take them to a medical professional or take them to their pastor to seek spiritual guidance. I would say literally take them, because if they’re depressed they may need the extra push. Speaking up can change lives! The Lord can use you to take someone away from a dangerous path, and point them to the wonderful gift of salvation in Jesus alone. May the Lord give you confidence and strength to Question, Persuade, and Refer.