September was Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Suicide is an epidemic in Utah and the number one cause of death for kids between the ages of 11 and 17. Unfortunately this issue has remained largely unaddressed, by the Christian church in general and by our church specifically. Over the past several weeks we have taken steps to correct this shortcoming and open up what we hope to be an ongoing dialogue about suicide, its causes, and solutions.
We began by partnering with Hope4Utah to provide suicide prevention training. Founder Greg Hudnall joined us on three occasions throughout the month, speaking to our teens, a group of adults in Taylorsville, and another group of adults in Provo. He explained the signs of suicidal behavior and how to intervene.
We also addressed the issue from the pulpit. Pastor Bryant, who has had two friends commit suicide, recently preached a message titled "When No One Else Knows," in which he talked about the spiritual component. We have an enemy in Satan and he longs to keep us depressed and oppressed. While we may feel completely alone, God knows and loves each of us where we are presently and through Jesus He offers us forgiveness and freedom.
Finally, with the start of our fall trimester small groups, we offered a three week study called "Dealing with Suicide" in order to provide a safe place for a candid conversation. During the first lesson, group leader Martha of our Taylorsville campus acknowledged that suicide and depression have a stigma attached to them that keeps them from being discussed. However, stigmas are manmade and anything manmade can be torn down by God.
As uncomfortable as it perhaps was initially, people have responded and opened up. We thank God for that and are praying that He continues to show us how to serve our church and community effectively in this area.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255.