COUNSELING: Ministering to those with Suicidal Thinking

Minstering to those with suicidal thinkingNational Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255

By Wendy Cibula

Do not harm yourself, for we are all here. – Acts 16:29

I was surprised to read that Christian Superstar and American Idol finalist, Mandisa, recently faced struggles with depression. How could the author of perky-feel-good-its-amazing-to-be-alive music like “It’s a Good Morning” and “Overcomer” experience such a profound time of darkness?  In a recent article, she wrote that her hopelessness “very likely could have led to a quick-fix attempt to numb the pain by taking my life.” The inspiration of Scripture, the intervention of good friends, and looking toward the future helped see her through. She has a new hope and writes, “I am an ‘unfinished overcomer’ in progress!”

Mandisa’s story should not have surprised me. Every day here at Anchorpoint, we see the depressed, grieving and broken hearted who walk through our doors in search of hope and healing.  The national and local news also abound with reports on the famous and not famous (but also beloved) who succumb to suicide. Suicide statistics show that one in every three people has been impacted by suicide. 6% of all adults and 17% of adolescents are thinking of suicide.  There is hope.  Suicide is preventable and we can equip ourselves to help. Like Paul intervened on behalf of the guard who would have killed himself and Mandisa’s friends acted on her behalf, we can be there for those with suicidal tendencies.

But, how? Our executive director, Ron Barnes, recently received a call from a pastor in search of answers to this question.  This pastor’s congregation had recently grieved the suicide of a parishioner.  Ron’s advice to him, other pastors, and us is “Talk about it.” Don’t conceal it.  Don’t treat it shamefully or make the topic taboo.  Sitting in your congregation this Sunday or alongside you in your place of work or school are those whose lives have been touched in some way by suicide and may even be considering suicide themselves.  Shame, fear, or embarrassment may keep these individuals from seeking help.  By recognizing and speaking about the issues of suicide during worship, corporate prayer, teaching of spiritual practices, and care and outreach, faith communities may encourage those with suicidal tendencies to feel safe coming forward to confide in us and seek help.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says “…something to look out for when concerned that a person may be suicidal is a change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors. This is of sharpest concern if the new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, loss, or change. Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do.“ Click here to review a list of risk factors and warning signs:

If someone you know has suicidal thoughts and suddenly seems better this can also be a red flag. Clients at Anchorpoint will often tell our counselors that their loved one seemed happiest right before suicide.  One reason for this is that the person is relieved to have made the decision to use suicide as the “way out.”  “If critical needs aren’t met, suicide is a poor alternative,” Ron explains.

Preventative education is one of Anchorpoint’s core values and an important aspect in ministering on this topic. Ron recently attended a workshop called Soul Shop for Leaders. He found it to be informative and consistent with what Anchorpoint has experienced over the last fifty years of counseling.  Soul Shop is a movement that exists “due to the need of desperately hurting people to be heard, noticed, and seen within their faith communities.”  Soul Shop’s creators believe that God calls us to minister to those impacted by suicidal depression.  Their mission is to equip leaders of faith communities to minster to those impacted by suicidal depression. Soul Shop uses the acronym CALL in their training:

Commit that you will tell someone who can help guide you in helping them.
Ask them if they are considering suicide.
Listen to their story.
Lead them to safety and leave them in good hands.

In 2013, the CDC ranked suicide as the 10th leading cause of death with one person dying every eight minutes as a result. The CDC has just published an updated report with more staggering statistics. You can read more of this report and suggestions here. The CDC says that nearly 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2016. The suicide rate has increased by 30% in half of the states since 1999. More than 54% of the people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition. This is an epidemic that we can help change.

We can show those with suicidal thinking that we are all here. If we will become equipped, foster safe communities, and commit to God’s call to be present for the broken hearted, we will make a difference. We can intervene to offer hope and aspirations of a healthy future if we will make the time to do so. For more information on the Soul Shop training, visit If you are worried that someone you know may be thinking of suicide or you yourself are having these thoughts two emergency numbers for help – in addition to 911- are:

  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
  • Resolve Crisis Network: 1-888-796-8226

Another way you can get involved and help make a difference is participation in the Cranberry Noon Rotary Suicide Prevention and Awareness Walk this fall (September 9, 2018). A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Anchorpoint and other organizations with suicide prevention programs. We hope you will join us for this Walk for Hope. For more information and to register for the walk, visit this link.

If you need to talk with somebody, a compassionate counselor is available to listen to your story, teach you coping skills, and help you create a coping plan. If you are worried about or your heart is broken over the death of a loved one, we are here for you too. Call 412-366-1300 to schedule an appointment and begin the process of hope and healing.

You may also be interested in reading: Reaching Out to a Depressed or Sick Loved One.


Corporate Prayer of Hope for Suicide Prevention

By Rev. Dr. Ron Barnes, LSW

Lord, You teach us to come to you with our burdens and to pray for others and their burdens. There are burdens that seem overly heavy at times. We need your help, your teaching, and your love to regain the perspective you have given us. We ask for your Spirit to work in the lives of those who may currently be considering suicide.  We pray for them that they would talk with someone who they trust to share their story.  We pray that they would become hopeful and that they would know that others want to help and care for them in their time of need.  Lord, give us all insight and awareness to be a loving presence for each other.  Lord, we also lift up to you those who are worrying about a loved one or friend who is considering suicide.  May their communications of love be received by the loved one or friend.  Amen.