A church without the broken is a broken church.
Each year, 44,193 Americans die by suicide which, on average, amounts to 121 suicides per day.
For many of us, these figures don’t feel too far off. We can picture the faces and remember the names of those in our own communities who’ve taken their own lives.
As a young pastor, I too came face to face with the harsh realities of suicide and the pain brought on by watching those I loved experience such deep suffering. Particularly, I remember a man named Jim in our congregation who was struggling with mental illness. For a while, he fought the good fight and did what he could to spend time in prayer and read Psalms to find comfort. Eventually, however, filled with despair, he took his own life.
I was devastated.
At the time, I was unprepared, idealistic, and largely unsure how to handle the events that had just transpired in the church community I was shepherding.
Unfortunately, I think many churches today fit that same description. They are trying to figure out how to help people struggling with mental illnesses and care for loved ones in the aftermath of loss but don’t really know quite what to do.
But, if we’re honest, we must know that our unpreparedness is actually hurting the very people we care most about: our church communities. If we—as pastors, leaders, and churchgoers—really want to offer help, it’s time to look at the facts.
The American Association of Christian Counselors, Liberty University Graduate School counseling program and medical school, and executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention recently partnered together to produce important new research on the topic of suicide in Protestant church communities.
Some of their survey findings:
- 55% of churchgoers say that they hear about a suicide in their community about once a year or more