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Suicide Prevention: The 7 things you need to know. BRINGING AWARENESS

A contented mind, a cheerful spirit, is health to the body and strength to the soul. Nothing is so fruitful a cause of disease as depression, gloominess, and sadness. Many of the diseases from which men suffer are the result of mental depression. Because God's love is so great and so unfailing, the sick should be encouraged to trust in Him and be cheerful (2MCP 482).

Always be assured that God is near all who are brokenhearted and heavy in spirit. "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18).  God loves them so much. He says, "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee" (Jeremiah 31:3). However, there are some who haven't grasp that knowledge and may feel lost and desperate. Sadly, thoughts of suicide may come up. Navigating the delicate topic of suicide requires a combination of sensitivity, awareness, and proactive support. While recognizing warning signs is crucial, it's essential to understand that they are not definitive proof of suicidal thoughts. But it is wise to become knowledgeable on this subject that you may be able to approach this subject with great care.  Nevertheless, when in doubt, professional help should be sought immediately if there's any concern.

According to the World Health Organization, over 700,000 people die by suicide each year globally. In the United States, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, with over 48,000 deaths reported in 2019 (CDC). Mental health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse, often contribute to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Now, let’s discuss the warning signs and the actions to take. Later, we will also discuss some encouraging words you can provide. Learn to recognize the 7 Warning Signs. 

1. The person expresses suicidal thoughts. They individual verbalize a desire to die, expressing feelings of hopelessness, or stating they have no reason to live. Taking a person's expression of suicidal thoughts seriously is crucial because it may indicate a genuine risk to their well-being and life.  Suicidal thoughts can be a sign of intense emotional distress, mental health challenges, or feelings of hopelessness. Ignoring or dismissing these thoughts can contribute to an increased risk of self-harm or suicide. By treating such expressions seriously, individuals can receive the support and intervention they need. Prompt and compassionate responses, such as connecting them with mental health professionals, friends, or family, can be instrumental in helping them navigate their struggles. It is essential to prioritize the safety and mental health of individuals who express suicidal thoughts and to encourage them to seek professional help. Allow them to share and encourage them with 1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape." Use this promise as you guide them to seek assistance. Let them know they are not alone. 

2.  Signs of withdrawal and isolation: Watch for signs of social withdrawal and a sense of isolation from others.They may pull away from social activities, friends, family, or things they once enjoyed. Taking signs of withdrawal seriously is crucial because it may indicate various underlying issues that can have a significant impact on an individual's well-being. Withdrawal can manifest in different ways, such as social isolation, disinterest in activities, or changes in behavior. Withdrawal can be a symptom of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders. Addressing these concerns early on can lead to better outcomes in terms of treatment and support. Social withdrawal can also be linked to substance abuse problems. Recognizing withdrawal signs can be a key step in identifying potential substance abuse issues and facilitating appropriate interventions. Withdrawal can strain personal relationships. By taking these signs seriously, individuals can offer support and understanding, potentially preventing further isolation and damage to relationships. But keep in mind that extreme withdrawal may be associated with thoughts of self-harm or suicide.  Isolation can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and hopelessness, contributing to an elevated risk of suicide. Continue to remind them that they are never alone. "For He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5).

3. Changes in Behavior: Significant changes in sleep patterns, eating habits, or personal hygiene may be noticed. Individuals contemplating suicide may exhibit observable shifts in their behavior, and these changes can serve as warning signs Pay attention, as changes in behaviors can be a telltale sign on internal changes as well. When you notice negative changes, remind them of how valuable  they truly are.  Isaiah 43:4 says, "Since you were precious in My sight,You have been honored, And I have loved you" says God. 

4. Giving Away Possessions: They uncharacteristically gives away prized possessions or making final arrangements. Giving away possessions can be a concerning sign of suicide because it may indicate an individual's sense of closure or a desire to tie up loose ends before taking drastic action. This behavior can be seen as a tangible expression of a person's emotional state and their perceived need to unburden themselves or make final arrangements. The act of giving away possessions can be a way for someone to detach themselves emotionally from the material world, signaling their readiness to part with everything. Thus, giving away possessions can serve as a silent cry for help or an expression of deep emotional distress when words may fail to convey the intensity of their feelings. Remind them that God knows their heart and mind. Psalm 139:23-24 says, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."  To God, the most eloquent prayer is the silent, earnest heart-felt petition that comes from a broken and contrite heart. (Ms 49 1903, par 4).

5. Drastic Mood Swings: They may show rapid and extreme mood swings, including expressions of rage, anxiety, or profound sadness. Drastic mood swings can be a concerning sign of suicide due to the intense emotional turmoil and distress that often precede suicidal thoughts. While mood swings alone may not necessarily indicate suicidal tendencies, extreme and unpredictable shifts in mood may be indicative of underlying mental health challenges. Individuals experiencing overwhelming emotions may struggle to cope, increasing their vulnerability. Drastic mood swings, particularly towards prolonged periods of sadness, despair, or hopelessness, can be linked to an individual's perception that their situation is insurmountable, potentially leading to thoughts of suicide. This can also include periods of unexplained outbursts of anger or aggression. Remember that emotions serve a purpose. They serve as indicators of the thoughts. If the thoughts are wrong then the feelings will be wrong as well. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath,  nor give place to the devil" (Ephesians 4:26-27). Changing and addressing the thoughts can help change the emotions.

6. Substance Use: Another sign is a sudden use or increase in the use of alcohol or drugs. The sudden use of substances like alcohol and drugs can be a sign of suicide risk due to several interconnected factors  They may think that substance use can provide a temporary escape from emotional pain, but it may also indicate a lack of healthier coping mechanisms. The use of substances might be an attempt to numb emotional pain or alleviate symptoms temporarily. Sudden and increased substance use may serve as a non-verbal expression of despair or a cry for help Let them know that there are better ways to address the internal pain. Encourage them with words and action. "Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing" (1 Thessalonians 5:11). 

7. Changes in Appearance: They may start to neglect personal appearance and hygiene. Feeling like there is no way out of their current situation, some may give up on taking care of themselves.  Encourage them not to give up on themselves. "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers" (3 John 2).  Now that you know the warning signs, what can do if you see any of them? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Take it Seriously: Do not dismiss or minimize the person's feelings. Take warning signs seriously.

2. Express Concern: Talk openly with the person and express your concern for their well-being. Let them know you care and are there to support them.

3. Listen Actively: Allow the person to talk about their feelings without judgment. Be a good listener and show empathy.

4. Encourage Professional Help: Urge them to seek professional help from a mental health expert. Offer assistance in finding a counselor, therapist, or contacting a crisis helpline.

5. Involve Others: If appropriate, involve friends, family, or other supportive individuals in the person's life. Building a support network is crucial.

6. Remove Immediate Risks: If there's an immediate risk, do not leave the person alone. Remove any potential means of self-harm.

7. Follow Up: Continue to check in on the person regularly. Ongoing support is essential for those dealing with suicidal thoughts.

When it's appropriate, use the following phrases:  

"I'm Here for You": Assure them they are not alone and that you are there to support them through difficult times.  

"It's Okay to Seek Help": Reinforce that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.  "You Are Important": Remind them of their value and the positive impact they have on others.

"Let's Find Support Together": Offer to help them find professional support or accompany them to appointments.  

"Your Feelings Are Valid": Acknowledge their pain and emotions without judgment.

Give them hope with promises. 

Psalm 34:18: The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

Matthew 11:28: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Philippians 4:6-7: Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Isaiah 41:10: Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

In times of darkness, these verses can serve as a beacon of hope, reminding people that God's love and support are unwavering. And remember, if you or someone you know is struggling, please seek help immediately. Because we live in a broken world and everyone has the gift of choice, we cannot prevent suicide 100%. However, together, we can foster a compassionate and supportive environment for those who are in the valley of decision and pray they make the right choice to live.

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