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Where Would You Go If You Had Suicidal Thoughts?

10/09/2017 08:12 | Updated 10 September 2017
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I wonder where you'd go if you were struggling with thoughts of suicide?

The pub perhaps, somewhere you can be anonymous and drown your sorrows? A doctor?

The church might not rank highly as a place that would offer hope and comfort.

You might think of stories you've heard of denied final resting places or condemnation to the seventh circle of hell. But eleven years ago, on the night I first considered it, the church was exactly where I wanted to be. Depression had wheezed the hope from me and at just 15 I'd had enough and so I went to the place I'd called home for my entire life.

On the dark December night, as I sat and cried my way through a midweek service I found myself surrounded, comforted and encouraged to give life another try.

Fast forward a decade and it's now part of my job to help churches be places of welcome and understanding for those with mental health conditions; because once upon a time the church was at the forefront of mental health care - the oldest mental health hospital in the world is named after the birthplace of where the centre of our faith, Jesus, was born.

At its best, I've found church to be the people who hoped for me when I couldn't do it for myself, that stayed my hand by showing a different way. The church, as with the rest of the world, cannot ignore suicide because someone dies by suicide every forty seconds.

Sometimes numbers can lose their meaning - we hear them and can hardly begin to imagine what it means in reality for those affected.

Millions of people who need, more than anything, something to hold onto. Hope.

Hope is not found in claiming that suicide is the unforgivable sin (it's not but that's a matter for another piece). It's not found in telling people to pull themselves together, or banishing them from our churches and communities. It's found in allowing people to give voice to their darkest and scariest thoughts. The thoughts that provide both solace and devastation.

Solace, because it is a way to escape unimaginable pain.

We need to allow people to say the hardest words; because as unnatural as it may seem, speaking about suicide can actually help someone to avoid acting upon their feelings.

In the Bible, Elijah cries, "Take my life, I've had enough" and the response is the provision of food, sleep and a listening ear. In an ancient story we see a thoroughly modern approach to facing suicide with compassion and practicality - we might call it a holistic approach.

And as we mark World Suicide Prevention Day, it's an approach that we can put into practice in our communities, because the church doesn't need to be the last place to seek solace amidst thoughts of suicide, it can be somewhere which holds out hope in the darkest of nights.

In order to do that, we have to speak of suicide with compassion, not condemnation.

If you'd like to see more about our #SpeakofSuicide campaign - head to https://thinktwiceinfo.org/?s=wspd17

Useful websites and helplines:

Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 UK and ROI (this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill)

Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393

The Mix is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: help@getconnected.org.uk

HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41

Maytree is a sanctuary for the suicidal in north London in a non-medical setting. For help or to enquire about a stay, call 020 7263 7070

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