This is the final installment of a 4-part series written about suicide. We have, in previous editions, raised awareness of how suicide touches all of us — across ethnic, economic and religious lines, from the young to the old, including those who are mentally ill and those who are not. We pointed out the risk factors and behaviors that might indicate someone is considering suicide and how to intervene.

In the third part we discussed how we as a faith community can try to understand the agony and confusion that suicide survivors can experience, and we considered how we can reach out to them, to comfort them.

In this last installment we will offer a few means to consider in preventing suicide and reducing the risk factors in our families and communities.

First, we must recognize that there are people in our parishes and communities and families who are at risk for suicide and need help. Second, we are made by God for connection, with Him and with one another; we yearn for intimacy, of being known and loved by others.

Third, people need to feel valued and loved, unconditionally.

And finally, knowing one has a purpose, that one’s life has meaning, is vital.

Talk about it:

  • Ask if your friend or family member is thinking of suicide.
  • This does not plant the suggestion; rather, it helps them come out of their isolation and also gives the opportunity to share your concern, to open conversation.

Connection:

  • Reduce screen time and increase positive face-to-face connection. Frequent use of social media impairs one’s ability to build meaningful relationships, and research shows that more than two hours a day of social media use increases psychological distress and suicidal ideation. Despite being more “connected” than ever, people today feel isolated.
  • Determine to have meals together, with family and friends.
  • Pray and play together.
  • Provide a safe and joyful environment.

Hope:

  • Promote the understanding that recovery from mental illness and substance use disorders is real and possible for all.
  • Recognize that family and/or individual therapy can improve relationships.
  • Stress that life’s challenges can be overcome, and bad feelings will subside.
  • Let them know they are not alone.
  • Discover what strategies and resources are available to cope with and reduce the emotional pain.

Valued and loved:

  • Understand that feeling rejected, excluded, abandoned or left out is related to suicidal ideation.
  • Live and preach that one’s dignity and worth are not based on performance. Everyone yearns for unconditional love.

Meaning and purpose:

  • Amidst an increasingly secular society, we can choose to grow in our faith, make it a priority and share it with others. Accept the perfect, unconditional love of God for each of us and His goodness and plan for us.
  • Grow in virtue, expect virtue.

In the United States, texting “741741” will connect users to a crisis text line.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) is a free, confidential crisis line available 24/7, anywhere in the country.

— Sharon Trani, a nurse practitioner, is a marriage and family therapist with Vermont Catholic Charities Inc.

—Originally published in the Spring 2020 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.

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