Helping Hurting People: Thoughts of Suicide


“I’m a failure. I’m a failure at home. I’m a failure at school. Things would be easier on my family if I just wasn’t around anymore.”

Getting Perspective

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among teens. It’s important to note that suicide is rarely an impulsive act. Nearly 90 percent of suicides occur at home — and there are some key warning signs:

  • A decline in performance
  • A recent traumatic event
  • Communication problems with family and/or friends
  • Onset of quick-tempered outbursts
  • Depression
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Social withdrawal
  • Lack of hope for the future

Nearly 80 percent of those who complete suicide talked about it with others before making the attempt.

Suicide attempts are tangible cries for help. There are several factors that motivate people to consider suicide:

  • to avoid pain
  • to seek punishment
  • to hurt others
  • to manipulate
  • to gain notoriety
  • to reunite with a loved one
  • to demonstrate love
  • to avoid burdening others

Biblical Insights

“For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:13-16

“I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 40:1-3)

Immediate Response

If someone is presenting the above warning signs, pull them aside and spend some time with them. Ask them how things are going with them. If they talk about hopelessness, ask them directly if they are contemplating suicide.

If suicidal thoughts are acknowledged, don’t respond with a judgmental spirit. Allow them to talk openly about their struggles and their “reasons for dying.” When they have fully given their rationale, note that they have “reasons for living” as well. Help them to explore all of the reasons that they should continue to press on.

Action Steps

  • Safety should be a first priority. Create a written safety plan that disables any suicide plan and reminds them of any helpful resources they can access. If there is an immediate threat, get professional help immediately. They may require hospitalization for their own safety.
  • Once they are more stable, investigate options for counseling to address the issues that brought on the thoughts of suicide and to help them to understand more appropriate coping strategies. Link them with support networks.
Andrew Graham
Andrew Graham
Dr. Andrew Graham is a licensed mental health counselor, nationally certified counselor, and board-certified professional Christian counselor providing professional counseling and consulting from a Christian perspective. He serves as Associate Professor of Counseling at Spring Arbor University and as an adjunct faculty member in God's Bible School and College's Graduate Program. Dr. Graham and his wife Lisa live in Hobe Sound, Florida with their eight children.