Suicide Personal Safety Plan
“I waited patiently for the Lord, and He turned to me and heard my cry for help. He brought me up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure.” -Psalm 40:1-2
Today, I want to die. It’s really an everyday kind of thing. So, don’t be alarmed. I don’t say that to garner anyone’s pity. I don’t need or want that. But, I only say so to remove the shame and the stigma that is so often associated with one thinking about or, even, planning their own demise.
Many more people deal with suicidal thoughts on a regular basis than one might realize. I struggle with Major Depression, as I have discussed in other articles, like Steps Ordered By The Lord and Warfare of The Mind.
I don’t have an active plan to harm myself, but I have had one in the past. I actually was on the very verge of taking my own life once. It was a terrifying period of despair. I rationalized and thought and contemplated, until my ability to think became clouded by overwhelming feelings of sadness, mental anguish, and a deep, dark emptiness.
At the point where I was almost at no return, I was no longer thinking properly. It’s hard to describe, but the 40th Psalm puts it into words that make sense. It’s a desolate place – a deep dark pit. And once the darkness envelopes you, without a gleam of light, there is no turning back.
I am convinced that during those moments right before people decide to end their lives, they are not in a sane state of mind. That seems obvious, but research has shown that the brain’s chemistry actually changes in the person who experiences suicidality.
I’ve heard of instances where people were so depressed, that they and their families feverishly fought off the war of the mind, but eventually lost the battle. I truly believe that God is merciful and kind and that He understands the plight of people in such a state. I especially believe that He is merciful to someone who has dedicated their entire life to His service that, in a time of deep despair, was engulfed by the darkness.
“For He tells Moses: I will show mercy to whom I show mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” – Romans 9:15
I’ve been to a few seminars on Crisis Intervention and Suicide Precaution for the line of work that I do, and I just completed a study on it at work yesterday. (No, the irony is not lost on me that I work in the mental health field and also have mental health issues.) If I remember correctly from one of those seminars, the brain becomes so affected in a person who has constant thoughts of suicide that experts define it as a true illness of the brain.
Death by suicide is happening to children as young as 8 and 9 years old. It’s almost no wonder why with the increasing amount of bullying that occurs among school-aged children and because of the degree to which bullying and harassment occur through technology, such as social media.
Children are also subject to a constant barrage of images by the media of what their bodies, hair, and clothing should look like. It’s sad when a grown adult stoops so low as to bully a child about their size and weight and calls them degrading names. The truth is, people who are bullies at school grow up to be bullies at work and in their communities – that is, if they are not changed by the saving power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Some people feel so bad about themselves, that the very existence of another human being who embodies what they deep-down want to be threatens them. And the only way they know how to cope with it is to try to make the people that they envy feel and be as miserable as they are.
About two months ago, my 11 year-old niece encountered a suicidal classmate. She noticed the boy sitting near her was in tears with his head bowed. When she asked him what was wrong, he told her, “I don’t want to be here.” When she inquired further about what he meant, he showed her a piece of paper on his desk that had a picture that he’d drawn of a gravestone with his name on it.
My niece tried to get him to go talk to a counselor or to tell the teacher, but he wouldn’t. And just as she was talking to him, another student walked by the boy and started to laugh at him and crack jokes about his weight and about him crying. My niece stood up to the bully and alerted her teacher of her classmate’s situation.
Eventually, a counselor was able to speak with him and contact his parents to help get him the care that he needed. But my niece also came home from school distraught and in tears over what had happened.
A lot of people never have a conversation with someone who is contemplating their own death, and they just don’t know what to say or do. That doesn’t mean that they don’t encounter them. I go to work, attend meetings and worship services, and carry out daily functions while still depressed and having thoughts of dying. You never know who’s thinking what, unless you talk to them and ask.
I think it’s time to stop “having a conversation” about suicide and to actually do something to prevent it. Talking to someone about suicide or asking them if they are having thoughts of harming themselves is not going to make someone hurt themselves. That’s a misconception. But, asking someone who seems down or discouraged if they are having any such thoughts will actually help them, get them to talking, and more than likely prevent them from carrying out self harm.
People need to know that it’s okay to have thoughts about dying – to feel bad sometimes. They also need to know that during those times, they are not alone. In order for that to happen people need to prepare. You may say, “That’s not me,” “My child would never do that,” “Me and my spouse are fine,” “I love myself,” or “Not my friend or family member.” I’m here to tell you, it has nothing to do with that – loving yourself or assuming that someone you know will never be so anguished that they would have thoughts of suicide.
You never know what might happen. There’s enough evil, sickness, disaster, divorce, loss, grief, stress and pain in this world to bring anybody down. So let’s all be prepared and complete a Suicide Personal Safety Plan. Click the link to view it. My therapist created and gave these documents to me to complete a while ago and provided me the extra copies to share. He thought that I might be able to help someone else given the experience that I had. I am sharing this with his permission. If anyone wants to use his work in an official capacity, please visit my Contact page and email me so that I can provide you with his contact information. I am not sharing his name here for obvious reasons.
I completed mine and enlisted the help of a dear friend as my witness. As you can see on the form, there is a place for a witness to sign as an accountability partner. Having this plan in place has helped me on several occasions. After the incident I described above, months later I felt myself heading in that direction again. I was able to make use of my safety plan and I went and checked myself into a mental health psychiatric facility for a few days, where I received help.
It should be mandatory for everyone to complete a Personal Safety Plan. Every church should require every member to complete one. Every school needs to have every student fill out their Personal Safety Plan. I think it even needs to be adopted to be a homicidal safety plan for schools, since so many school shootings and deaths occur. People need to have something in place to help them if and when the time comes that they need it. Doctor’s offices require several other forms to be filled out; the Personal Safety Plan needs to be one of them. Parents should sit and have a talk with kids, and families need to complete theirs together – so do spouses and adult children with their parents.
Ask your friends to complete one with you. You or someone that you love may not need the plan now, but it could be beneficial sometime later. I know that everyone would much rather have a plan in place for them and their loved ones and not need it than to never have discussed it and find out that someone that you love may have been helped by it in some way.
One sweet, beautiful life lost is one life lost too many.
If you are experiencing challenges in life that seem insurmountable, please know that you are not alone. There is hope, and there are people who care for you, even if you don’t know it. And most important of all, God sees what you are going through, God knows, and He cares. Today, I choose to live. Do you?
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