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After safeTALK

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It was the end of safeTALK suicide alertness training and I was spellbound. It made sense of my experience, I understood how I’d become suicidal, and how I’d made it back to life and living.

Then a lady leaned over to me and said “I felt it lacked compassion, I just want to tell people God loves them.” I looked her in the eye and with full conviction replied “when I was sat on the cliff edge, if you’d have told me God loved me, I’d have told you to **** off and then jumped”.

We went on to talk further, but this conversation is important for several reasons. It challenges us, especially us Christians, to think differently about suicide and how best to help someone who is struggling to cling on to life.

Firstly, this lady looked at me and unconsciously I presume, decided that I was not the sort of person who might be suicidal. Suicide in my case was not on her radar.

The trouble with this assumption is that suicide does not discriminate. Whilst it’s true that at certain times in our lives, or for some demographics in our community there may be increased risk, thoughts of suicide can hit any of us at any time.

And that’s OK, it’s part of being human. Thoughts of suicide can affect anyone, but those thoughts do not have to lead to harmful actions. There is even more cause for hope. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), suicide can be prevented. As more of us become alert to the possibility that suicide may be present and as we equip ourselves to help, our communities will become suicide safer places.

Secondly, this lady believed she already knew the answer and that she could fix me. Her answer for me or anyone thinking about suicide was that God loved me.

I appreciate the sentiment and as a Christian myself I absolutely believe that God is love itself.

But let me put this to you. Sadly, there are those who have been hurt in the name of love through rejection, abandonment, or abuse. For some of us, the word ‘love’ provokes intense feelings of fear and anxiety.

However, even that is not the point. The point is that this well-intentioned lady was trying to fix the problem. But a person struggling with suicidal thoughts does not need to be fixed, they need to be heard.

This is good news. It’s liberating for the person struggling as well as for the person helping. Having listened to many dear people struggling with thoughts of suicide I confess that I can’t fix any of it. Thank God for that. What a burden it would be if we had to find answers and fix people.

What I have learned is that when you listen, life itself often finds a voice. We don’t need to be expert counsellors or have degrees in ‘active listening’. We just need to listen.

Link to safeTALK training

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