Suicide

“Suicide,” Counseling Resources (2020).

“Suicide,” Counseling Resources.

Suicide

Visit the “Suicide” section on ChurchofJesusChrist.org or in the Gospel Library app to find free help lines from around the world and resources for helping individuals struggling with a suicide-related crisis.

Suicide is a global public health problem that can often be prevented. Most people who have thought about suicide do not want to die; they simply want to find relief from the physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual pain they are going through. However, they may reach the point of crisis when they lose hope and cannot find a solution to their pain, when they believe they are a burden to others, when they become apathetic or desensitized to death and pain, or when they cannot identify reasons to live.

The risks of suicide can be reduced when family members, friends, ward members, and mental health professionals work together to help those who are struggling. Everyone should learn the risk factors and warning signs of suicide and then reach out to find help for a person considering suicide. Speaking with someone about suicide does not increase the likelihood that he or she will act on suicidal feelings.

Everyone should take seriously each situation where an individual states or implies that he or she is thinking about suicide or a loved one states or implies that an individual is at risk of suicide. Everyone should reach out in love to comfort, encourage, and care for those who are struggling with this issue and their family members.

Sadly, despite our best efforts, suicide is not always preventable. When it does occur, it leaves behind deep heartbreak, emotional upheaval, and unanswered questions for family members and loved ones. In these situations, leaders and ward members should seek to strengthen and support the family and loved ones.

Elder Dale G. Renlund said, “[The] old sectarian notion that suicide is a sin and that someone who commits suicide is banished to hell forever … [is] totally false” (Dale G. Renlund, “Understanding Suicide” [video]).

Elder M. Russell Ballard has provided these comforting words:

“Obviously, we do not know the full circumstances surrounding every suicide. Only the Lord knows all the details, and he it is who will judge our actions here on earth.

“When he does judge us, I feel he will take all things into consideration: our genetic and chemical makeup, our mental state, our intellectual capacity, the teachings we have received, the traditions of our fathers, our health, and so forth” (“Suicide: Some Things We Know, and Some We Do Not,” Ensign, Oct. 1987, 8).

Seek to Understand

As you talk with individuals, make sure to show love and empathy as the Savior would. Life’s experiences and circumstances are different for everyone. If you feel that a member is at risk of attempting suicide, prayerfully consider asking questions like these to help you better understand his or her concerns and needs:

  • Can you help me understand what you are feeling and experiencing right now?

  • Have you been diagnosed with a mental health condition? Are you following any prescribed treatment for this condition?

  • Do you have hope that circumstances can improve in your life?

  • What are your reasons for living?

  • What resources have helped you cope in the past?

  • Have you tried to hurt yourself before? How recently?

  • Are you thinking about suicide now?

  • Do you have a plan to attempt suicide? Have you thought about a time, location, or method?

  • Are your family, friends, or others aware of your thoughts?

  • How open are you to getting help right now?

Help the Individual

As you strive to help the individual, consider the following suggestions.

Help the member find hope and healing through the Savior Jesus Christ.

  • Help the person understand the enabling and redeeming power of Jesus Christ.

  • Help the person understand that he or she is a child of God and of great worth.

  • Help the person know that God loves her or him, no matter what.

  • Help the member understand that healing may not always mean a cure from a mental illness in this life. See the resource on mental health for more information.

  • Consider meeting regularly with the person and his or her family in addition to regular visits from Church leaders.

  • Connect the individual to other Church resources such as the “Suicide” and “Mental Health” sections on ChurchofJesusChrist.org, where he or she can find answers to specific questions.

  • Ensure the individual knows about suicide hotline resources and has access to crisis help.

Consult with professional resources.

  • If you are worried about someone’s safety or believe that someone may attempt suicide, immediately contact a local emergency medical service or your Family Services office (where available). Church leaders may also contact the Church help line for assistance with this issue.

  • These resources can help you identify local professionals or organizations that can help the individual.

Help the individual receive the appropriate treatment for his or her mental health condition.

  • Encourage the individual to use the resources recommended by Family Services or emergency medical services. You might help him or her to schedule counseling or to go to the nearest hospital emergency room.

  • With permission from the individual, inform the appropriate family members of the circumstances. Ask them to seek direction from mental health professionals about how to plan for the safety of the individual. This may include restricting the individual’s access to potential means of harm.

  • As appropriate, stay in regular contact with mental health professionals or family members during treatment.

  • If the individual refuses help and has a plan for self-harm with the intent to carry it out, immediately contact local emergency resources (such as civil authorities) and family members to escort the individual to emergency services.

Support the Family

An individual who is at risk of attempting suicide affects the lives of his or her family members. Parents, spouses, and other family members usually struggle with knowing how to help a loved one in crisis. They are often overwhelmed and may miss the warning signs. As you strive to help family members, consider the following suggestions.

Maintain confidentiality about the situation unless the threat is imminent, the situation involves a minor child, or the individual or the family grants you permission to speak to others.

Determine the effect of the member’s situation on his or her family and help family members identify resources they need for their own support and guidance.

  • Encourage the family to counsel together about the needs of the individual and about how to use the available resources to help the him or her and themselves.

  • If the family desires, meet with them (or recommend other Church leaders to meet with them as appropriate) to develop a comprehensive plan to meet their needs, including safety planning and support their loved one in receiving the necessary professional and spiritual care.

Consider personal professional help or counseling for the family members.

  • Encourage the spouse, parents, and other family members to also participate in counseling with the individual if mental health professionals determine that this participation is advisable and appropriate.

Use Ward and Stake Resources

Consider the following suggestions as you strive to use ward and stake resources to help the individual and family. Remember to maintain confidentiality about the situation unless the individual or the family grants you permission to speak with others.

Ask Church leaders or other trusted individuals to provide continuing support, guidance, and assistance to the individual.

Prayerfully identify a trusted person who can follow up with the individual regularly, and invite that person to do so.

  • The selected person should be someone the individual is comfortable with.

  • The person should be sensitive and emotionally stable and could be a ministering sister or brother.

Consider arranging training for ward or stake council members on suicide prevention.

  • Use materials from Counseling Resources or from the “Suicide” section on suicide.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.

  • Consider inviting a professional from a community resource program near you to help. Family Services (where available) or local emergency medical services can help identify such resources.