If you are considering suicide, seek help immediately. Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). There is also a Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741. For crisis support in Spanish, call 1-888-628-9454.
Two Sundays ago I had the privilege of speaking at a forum in a congregation that had just experienced the loss of a member by suicide. While mental health struggles are always common in the US, with COVID we are seeing a rise in depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance use, and insomnia. Over the coming weeks, I will be addressing mental health concerns as we all strive to maintain our mental, physical, and spiritual health in these trying times. Last week, in part one of a two-part series on suicide, the focus was on what to do if you or someone you know is considering suicide. Today, in part two, I’ll share some tips for what to do in the aftermath of a completed suicide.
It can be hard to know how to help someone whose life has been impacted by suicide. Knowing what to say, and what not to say, is important. Specifically:
There are also tangible things that you can do following a suicide. Specifically, you can:
We close with a prayer written by The Rev. Talitha Arnold for the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention:
God of all mercy, from whose love nothing can separate us, we pray this day for all persons dealing with mental illness and those who love and care for them. Especially this day, we pray for all whose lives have been touched by suicide, for those who have died by suicide and those who have attempted it. We pray for those who, because of mental health challenges such as depression, PTSD, or bipolar disorder, live with thoughts of suicide. We pray for those who live in despair and without hope because of poverty or discrimination. We pray for families and friends, colleagues and co-workers, who have been touched by the suicide of a loved one. We pray for counselors and therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists, for pastors, rabbis, priests, and imams, and for all who seek to help. And we pray, too, that you might give us the courage and wisdom to be there for others in distress, to offer your love and our care, to help break the silence and change the conversation about suicide, to be your listening ear, your hands, and your heart for others. Amen.
The above lists of suggestions come from a variety of sources, including those from the insightful members of a congregation that suffered the loss of one of their community by suicide, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website, and my own experience following the death of my spouse.
The Rev. Suzanne Watson, M.D. came to medicine as a second career after 10+ years of ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church where she served in congregations in California, New Zealand, and Connecticut, as well as on the staff of the Presiding Bishop in New York. She was also a candidate for Bishop of Alaska.
She attended medical school in her 20s, but left to devote time to raising her family. However, her dream of practicing medicine never died, and at the age of 50 she embarked on this vocational change. Part of her motivation was the loss of her physician husband to suicide. She is strongly committed to mental health advocacy, the reduction of stigma, and suicide prevention
She is currently in her last year of residency in Psychiatry at the University of Nevada, Reno. She is returning to San Diego this Summer and will be working at the VA hospital in La Jolla.
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