Tim Rowden of the Grief Project shares ways to support those left behind when somebody takes their own life. Follow the link for wise words on What suicide loss survivors need most . And do not be afraid!
Tim Rowden When you’ve lost someone to suicide, one of the hurdles in recovery is the people near you who sympathise but don’t know what to say or do. Worse are those who don’t say anything for fear that mentioning your loved one’s name will hurt you. (Pro tip: Not saying their name hurts more.)To find out what suicide loss survivors needed after their loved one died (and what they still need in the days, weeks, months and years to follow), the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention asked its community to share one way to support someone who’s lost a loved one to suicide.
This post shares material on World Suicide Prevention Day which we first encountered at The Grief Project, an American suicide prevention website.
World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) on Sept. 10 is an advocacy and communication-based event aimed at reaching national organizations, governments and the general public with the message that suicide can be prevented.
Worldwide, someone takes their life every 40 seconds, according to the World Health Organization. That’s 800,000 people every year. (Some estimates put that number as high as one million.) For every suicide that results in death, according to the WHO, there are as many as 40 attempted suicides.
Globally, suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 29.
In the United States, the overall suicide rate has increased by 35 percent since 1999. It is now the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. It affects all age groups. Which is why it’s so important to talk about and mental health, and encourage everyone to seek professional help when necessary.
You can find more information, including resources here.
TAKE 5 TO SAVE LIVES
Take 5 to Save Lives is a project of the National Council for Suicide Prevention (NCSP). The WHO, International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) co-sponsor World Suicide Prevention Day.
The NCPS Take 5 to Save Lives campaign encourages everyone to take five minutes to learn about suicide prevention and how you can get involved on World Suicide Prevention Day.
Jesus did not confine his mission to his own Jewish people. The woman at the well is just one example that we know about; she spoke to him face to face, undergoing a radical examination of conscience, and putting her faith in the Messiah who was calling her.
Today’s Gospel reading is from Luke 11:1-13, the Lord’s Prayer. The link leads to the Bishops of England and Wales’ page of the Lord’s prayer recited in different languages. A reminder that the Gospel is for every nation, every citizen, every human being.
Prayer too is universal. We can pray by listening as well as speaking. You can select the language you want to hear the Lord’s Prayer prayed in using the playlist on the web page. Maybe the next time you go to Mass abroad, you’ll be able to let these words flow over you even if you can’t join in reciting them!
Royal battle fleets once anchored here, near the Cinque Ports of Rye and Winchelsea. It’s a peaceful scene today, sheep in green pastures. Behind us as we look towards the passing train, flow the quiet waters of the River Brede, draining the salt marsh which was under the sea in historical times. But why talk about distress here today?
When we walked along the River we found on a willow a memorial tribute to a woman found drowned here, may she rest in peace. It was a special spot for her in life.
The railway is an another place where those in despair end their lives, and as we have seen before, the railway companies have set about suicide prevention in earnest. Now Southern Railway who operate the train seen here have appointed Laura Campbell as suicide prevention officer, a job she describes an a necessity.
All staff are trained to identify someone in distress or vulnerable and how to intervene. She says that more than 300 of her staff have saved lives since 2019. Not every station is staffed, of course, but, she says, fellow passengers should not be afraid to step in and ask, are you OK, thus offering an opening to a different narrative in the distressed fellow traveller.
Some of our posts during Lent will be a series, or as Christina would say, a season, on the theme of Gates, places where change can take place, where we can start a new life, perhaps in a new home. Some posts will be Scriptural, others from a variety of sources.
Our picture shows a section from the tympanum, or carved lintel panel above the West door of Strasbourg Cathedral. On the right we see one of the gates of death, attended by demons, with a woman descending into Hell. On the left is a remarkable image: the Lamb of God chewing through the rope on which Judas hanged himself, in order to save him from the gates of death. We should give some time to this chapter of Jesus’s story; certainly not one that appears explicitly in Scripture, but one that greatly mattered to the artist.
How many people have been so desperate that they committed suicide, as Judas did? In lockdown times, it is more difficult to get alongside friends who might be down, let alone strangers. Let us remember them when we say ‘Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, grant us Peace.’ And may we all come together soon to declare all God’s praises in the gates of the daughter of Sion – the people of God.
Have mercy on me, O Lord: see my humiliation which I suffer from my enemies. Thou that liftest me up from the gates of death, that I may declare all thy praises in the gates of the daughter of Sion. I will rejoice in thy salvation: the Gentiles have stuck fast in the destruction which they have prepared. Their foot hath been taken in the very snare which they hid.
Another lyric of Sappho, translated by Bret Carman.
Is your heart filled with disillusion at all things human – vanity of vanity, says the preacher (Ecclesiastes 1.2); the Bible, the Word of God, explores the same feelings of ultimate dissatisfaction with things fleeting and desired, as Sappho. But the Lord God is not fettered, as the Olympians were. His love leads, but also seeks out the lost sheep. As Sappho wants to believe, there is a place of safety, where every tear will be wiped away.
Let us pray that those in the depths of disillusion may find freedom in God’s love, and that we may be a light on their path, and be wise beyond words in our dealings with them.
Soul of sorrow, why this weeping?
What immortal grief hath touched thee
With the poignancy of sadness,—
Testament of tears?
Have the high gods deigned to show thee
Destiny, and disillusion
Fills thy heart at all things human,
Fleeting and desired?
Nay, the gods themselves are fettered
By one law which links together
Truth and nobleness and beauty,
Man and stars and sea.
And they only shall find freedom
Who with courage rise and follow
Where love leads beyond all peril,
Wise beyond all words.
(from “Sappho: One Hundred Lyrics” by Bliss Carman)
Not long before Christmas I took a railway journey across Manchester on one of the darkest days of the year. Since I was visiting my mother for her birthday, I resisted the temptation to continue towards Blackpool North (Pole), but the signaller’s humour was welcome on a bleak morning.
It was also good to see this note from Sam on behalf of the Samaritans, who are well aware that this season is not festive for everybody. Sadly, the railway is often a suffering soul’s chosen suicide spot. Sam’s message may persuade someone to ring them, as may the message on many train tickets.
By the time I was making my return journey, the weather had turned from a saturated mist to a greasy drizzle. Walking to Greenfield station with bright LED headlights shining in my face was no joy.
But Saddleworth Catholic church of the Sacred Heart already had their crib on display in the porch. A reminder of the hope that is in us.
Christian or not, we are given the virtue of hope to see us through the dark times. Christian or not, a helpless babe is not hopeless. He or she reaches out in trust. For those whose ability to trust has been eroded through others’ inhumanity, a word, a smile may make a difference. Few of us will ever find ourselves stepping in to prevent a suicide at the last moment, but we may, all unknowingly, help to do so before that.
From across the main road, my view of the crib was no better than in the photo, but I knew what I was looking at: even in the darkest, murkiest times, there is hope.
The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.
Ps 93.4 KJV
This sign is fixed to the lighthouse at the mouth of Whitby harbour, below the clifftop where Saint Hilda had her monastery and sponsored bishops for the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria.
It’s the sort of place where people, overwhelmed by their troubles, go to end their lives; hence the message:
God is greater than all of our troubles.
It doesn’t always feel that way, and with an outreached hand, a smile, a word in season, we might, all unawares, help someone to carry on a little longer. Even a notice like this one may touch a troubled soul, though it must have taken great trust for Whitby fishermen’s wives to believe it, on nights when their men were lost on a stormy sea.
Is the suicide lost? The stonemasons of Strasbourg did not think so, for they showed the Risen Lamb of God untying the hanged Judas to bring him back from the mouth of Hell.
If our journey is delayed by a suicide or a fatal accident, let us forgive those whose actions cause us inconvenience, let us not complain at the delay, but rather let us pray for the victim, for those innocently caught up in the incident, and the families and friends of all concerned.
This reflection comes after another railway trespasser’s death led to a callous response from a delayed passenger.
William Blake lived near Beachy Head in Sussex, part of the range of chalk cliffs he drew as a background for this verse.
Virginia Woolf was to drown herself in the nearby River Ouse a century and a half later, but today it is the cliffs themselves that attract the lonely, depressed and overwhelmed who are tempted to take their lives.
The Beachy Head Chaplaincy team are Christians from local churches ‘and although we reach out with the love of God, we never impose our faith on the people we seek to help.
‘We believe that by receiving skilled crisis intervention support at their time of crisis, people in suicidal distress can be awakened to the hope that there are other ways forward to address the problems they face.’
The Apostle Judas went out and hanged himself after seeing Jesus arrested and condemned, but the artist of Strasbourg Cathedral’s west front shows us the Lamb of God coming to release him from his noose and away from the mouth of Hell to go in at Heaven’s Gate.
In their different ways, the well-to-do and well-connected Virginia Woolf, and the disciple who was trusted by Jesus, were both privileged, yet both knew despair. It is not for us to condemn them, or any other suicide; rather let us support with prayer and alms brave good neighbours like the Samaritans and the Beachy Head Chaplains, not forgetting the official first responders, Police, Ambulance, Fire, Coastguard and Lifeboats.
And may we be ready with small talk or even a just a smile for anyone we meet. Lead, Kindly Light!
I was leaving a railway station when the Samaritans’ placard caught my eye: it was fastened to the railing at the top of the footbridge, so that everyone could see it as they climbed. A mental ‘thumbs-up’ to them from me!
The following day, on the rails again, I turned my tickets over to find two different messages from the Samaritans. Notice the slogan, ‘small talk saves lives.‘ The life of an individual human being is small when set against the whole of Creation, but it is all that that person knows, through their own direct experience or through conversation, reading, viewing or listening: their one life is the big thing for them, with sensations and experiences arriving constantly from all sides, not all of them welcome, some of them overwhelming.
If a beloved feels overwhelmed, it’s a big thing for those who care for them. So big that they too may feel overwhelmed and not know what to do or say.
So perhaps Jesus was right to tell us to ‘consider the lilies of the field.’ (Matthew 6:28) Small things, small talk. There was heather encroaching on the Yorkshire station; lovely purple flowers, but too far away on the opposite platform for me to catch the scent and comment on it to a fellow passenger.
On the return journey two sisters and their four teenaged children were on the train, talking about everything and nothing: small talk that meant nothing and everything. Another advert proclaimed that ‘I love you’ is one of the hardest things to say; but every word and gesture in this group announced that message loud and clear.
Even small words are not always needed. I had a profound experience on an underground train soon after a terrorist attack. I found myself standing next to a British Transport policeman. He was very tired, and had seen I know not what. Not a word was spoken, no gesture, no touch, but I prayed in my heart. When he got off he said, Thank You, and disappeared into the night.