Saints and Suicide: How Mental and Spiritual Health Collide
The world is reeling this week after the sad loss of Robin Williams to suicide.
Suicide is an epidemic. It is the second leading cause of death for 18-30 year olds with the highest cause of deaths being car accidents.... according to the Center for Disease Control. Here in York County (Pennsylvania), we have the 4th highest suicide rate in the entire state.
We need to talk about it. We cannot ignore suicide any longer.
When I was a kid, we rarely heard of suicide. Then, I experienced suicide when a cousin committed suicide at the age of 18. It rocked my world. It rocked my family's world. And it forever changed how I viewed suicide and the hell that some people go through that they choose to end their own life.
The Church can be a great healing place for those who are contemplating suicide or have lost someone to suicide. But first....we need to address some of the viewpoints that are floating around the church about mental health/suicide............
"Just pray it away. You lack faith!"--I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard someone use this line. Yes, sometimes our issues are related to lacking faith. But many times, we need real advice. Like a friend offering insight. Or someone to tell us that we are worth more to Jesus than ending life. Prayer is essential to our lives; I will not argue that one. However, prayer and action go hand in hand. If you are trying to lose weight, you cannot just pray away the junk food or temptations. You have to eat better, exercise, and track your progress. The same goes with any other issues we face. We have to pray...and plan....with Jesus.
"People that commit suicide are going straight to Hell"--This is an old school theological position. And it is dumb. Because this viewpoint does not take into account God's grace, understanding, and love. Besides, who are we to judge and be the jury on where people spend eternity. God knew the personal struggles that that person was going through before they committed suicide. God knows the heart better than man.
"Mental health issues are made up by the government."--Another idiotic statement people say. Mental health issues are real. School shootings, suicides, random acts of violence---where does this come from? Some people have severe mental health issues but we ALL HAVE ISSUES. In fact, we all have a mental health diagnosis; however, many people have no clue about what they "could have" because they won't look at the obvious in their life or their family tree. And yes, some people manipulate others with their mental health diagnosis, medications, and services--but this is not the majority.
If churches would network with mental health providers, we would see greater success in our communities. Share resources. Have a mental health professional (professor, therapist, etc.) come to your church and speak to your flock. Pastors can refer people to mental health providers and mental health providers can refer to churches.
Spiritual and mental health issues will collide. They must. Because they are intertwined. How we view God, authority, the future, and our purpose.....these things leak into both spiritual and mental realms. We must be willing to listen to peoples' stories. God gave us TWO EARS and ONE MOUTH for a reason. Read up on diagnoses. And don't believe everything you see posted on Facebook or Wikipedia. Talk to professionals.
The hardest generation to understand mental health issues is those that are currently retirement age and older. Alot of these folks only know of people getting shipped away to mental hospitals a long time ago. Sadly, some of these folks want people to "suck it up" because no one in their family is "mental". The wool is over their eyes for now but if they looked long and hard, they would see mental health issues in their family.
Curses, soul ties, bondage, etc.----say these words. It is safe to say every family has some curses, soul ties, or bondage in their family tree. The first step is admitting it. The second step is addressing it. Addressing it may make you cast out of your family like a leper in the Old Testament. Better to be honest than live a lie.
The spiritual and mental health realms---they MUST COLLIDE. Jesus wants us to transform our hearts and minds. This is more than viewing church as a Sunday-only event....and then we act like an ass the rest of the week. Jesus calls us to go deeper. To know why we believe what we believe (healthy or unhealthy). To look into our family trees. To know why (insert family member) acts the way they do at certain holidays. To live in freedom and not just status quo.
Suicide is a silent issue.
We must bring people out of the dark.
It starts with one person. You. Me.
Will we be a solution to the issue? Or passively ignore the issue?
Love wins. And love will win people into purpose and out of darkness.