Our founder, Dr. John Potter, just published his first book. It examines the frequent research findings that show religion and spirituality as factors that protect people from suicide. While science and religion may not have always played nice in the past, he shows that utilizing a body, mind, and spirit approach to wellness is the best option available. It is a path toward prevention and it also reflects a God-honoring way to address suicide through the lens of scripture.
The Bible is not silent on suicide. There are seven suicides recorded in the Bible. Each story is there for a reason. We have much to learn from these examples and many others who shared their human struggles in scripture. This category is important to highlight because it includes some of God’s prophets and ministers. Even the most mature believers are susceptible to depression and suicidal thoughts.
Several of the people whom we lift up as saints and pillars of faith were at the end of their rope, physically exhausted, or disillusioned. Prophets and ministers became so frustrated with their ministry that they asked God to kill them or cursed the day of their birth. Examples and times of hopelessness can be seen in Moses, Job, Elijah, Jonah, and Jeremiah (Num. 11:12-15, Job 3:1-3, 1 Kings 19:4, Jonah 4:1-11, Jer. 20:14-18). They asked God to take their lives, but in every case, God refused. Scripture also records women who thought about killing themselves and instead chose life: Rebekah (Gen. 27:46) and Rachel (Gen. 30:1). These two women utter the first suicidal statements found in scripture, but they are steadfast and continue on in life. The Bible has several accounts of potential tragedies that do not end in disaster. It is important for us to share these stories from scripture. They remind us that the hope we find in God is far greater than what we find in the world.
Houses of worship have a huge role in addressing suicide. Churches can offer fellowship, community, and support to people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts. Suicide is still a hidden or taboo topic, making denial, secrecy, and avoidance common. The challenge is for congregations to break the silence of these social norms and to act as caregivers in the communities where they exist.
Suicide is a leading cause of death. More people die from suicide than in all of the combined wars, conflicts, and natural disasters across the globe. Suicide is also an issue that few seem willing to discuss. Suicide remains a hidden or taboo topic. Stigma, culture, and theological misunderstanding are contributing factors to this reality.
Silent No More: A Christian Response to Suicide examines how scripture, spiritual practices, and congregations can address suicide. Religion / spirituality is frequently listed as a strong protective factor against suicide. Years of research, studies, and literature show that religion / spirituality is even stronger when beliefs, religious activity, and community are engaged to support people at risk of suicide. Religion / spirituality must be fully integrated into suicide prevention plans and efforts if a total wellness approach of spirit, mind, and body are to be utilized.
The book also addresses that Christian congregations must have love-soaked people who are ready to provide community and fellowship to hurting people inside and outside of the church doors. Dr. Potter concludes the book with seven steps that will enable congregations and churches leaders to help those who are at risk of suicide. These strategies can make simple strides to address suicide and help hurting people in any community.
It is time for Christian communities to rejoin the battle against suicide. Christianity has a rich legacy of caring for people in crisis, historically having started hospitals, mental health centers, and compassionate care ministries. There is a way for Christianity to regain its voice and care for people at risk of suicide. It is time for Christians to be silent no more.