According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2019, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 47,511 Americans died by suicide, and there were an estimated 1.38 million suicide attempts.
In 2021, National Suicide Prevention Week was observed Sept. 5–11, and World Suicide Prevention Day was on Sept. 10. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Office of National Mission continues to respond to the need for resources to support mental health and combat suicide, most recently with the release of a new book by the Rev. Peter Preus. I Will Grieve for the Suicide includes chapters on the stigma and shame that are sometimes associated with suicide; the feelings of anger, blame and guilt that may come with the suicide of a loved one; the blessings and limits of psychology in addressing suicide; and a consideration of sin, grief and grace as they apply to the topic of suicide.
Throughout the book, Preus shares his own family’s experience with suicide as well as stories of others whose lives have been affected by suicide. In addition, the book includes appendices with discussion questions, suggestions for supporting the grieving, scriptural comfort, prayers and recommendations for further reading. The book is available for free download from LCMS Life Ministry (lcms.org/life). An accompanying Bible study, Gospel Relief for the Despairing, will be available in the near future.
Some additional resources that offer a Christian, Lutheran approach to the topic of suicide are:
- And She Was a Christian: Why Do Believers Commit Suicide?, also by Preus. Available from Concordia Publishing House for $25.99 (a bulk discount is available), the book’s description says that it was written “from a confessional Lutheran perspective” and “addresses the theological issues surrounding the paradox of Christians committing suicide.”
- “A Biblical Response to Suicide” by Kristian Kincaid. The resource is part of CPH’s Biblical Response series, which provides “brief and easy-to-read summaries” of “what God’s Holy Word says about cultural issues that touch our lives.” Like other titles in the series, “A Biblical Response to Suicide” is available for $10.99 per pack of 20.
- “The Days That Were Formed for Me” from LCMS Life Ministry. The free, downloadable resource includes chapters by the Rev. John T. Pless, the Rev. Dr. Harold Senkbeil and others on topics such as suffering and the theology of the cross, assisted suicide and merciful end-of-life care.
Deaconess Tiffany Manor, director of LCMS Life Ministry, notes, “Christ and His church have always been concerned with preventing suicide. There are numerous scriptural accounts, such as with the prophets Elijah (1 Kings 19) and Jonah (Jonah 1, 4), that demonstrate God Himself intervening and caring for depressed individuals in both body and soul.
“As Christians we come alongside our neighbors who are suffering from mental illnesses as well as other mental or physical conditions that cause them to despair of earthly life. We bear their burdens with them, accompany them through hardships and trial, help them to get the physical and psychological services that they need, and point them to Christ, who gives hope and life.”
A Mental Health Task Force is being formed to fulfill 2019 Resolution 3-04A, “To Encourage Training of Our Pastors, Church Workers and Congregations to Recognize and Provide Pastoral Care for Those Suffering from Clinical Depression, Mental Illnesses, and Other Mental Disorders.”
If you are reading this article because you are concerned about someone — maybe even yourself — having suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help. Talk to your pastor, a family member or friend. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or the crisis text line at 741-741. Help is also available from suicidepreventionlifeline.org and crisistextline.org. Do not suffer alone or sit in silence, wondering what to do. There are people to come alongside you — people who care.
Posted Aug. 25, 2021