I am reluctant to put a title on this article concerning what it’s about. The reason I don’t want to do that is it would be terrible for many of us to see the title and say, “that has nothing to do with me or my life or anyone I know”.

What if I were to tell you something grew by 72%…seems like a lot of growth to me? What if I were to tell you that the thing that grew by 72% in the past 10 years was something that is very bad and devastates everyone in contact with it. I would find that alarming.

You know the look that a person gives you when they are truly in total shock? Sam’s brother was looking at his youth pastor with THAT look. “Something has happened to my brother”, the young man said to his pastor. The regular Wednesday night youth service was about to begin in five minutes. Both Sam and his brother would normally be hanging out with the other kids as they gathered like every other normal week, but not this week. Something would shift everything this week.

The look that this young man gave his pastor must have conveyed more than words ever could. The pastor handed out duties for others to carry on the weekly event and left to drive to Sam’s house. Little did he know that the next 24 hours would be the hardest day of his life. This would be a Wednesday night that would change the lives of an entire community. The tragic news finally became clear.

A father found his sophomore son hanging in the basement.

He was hanging from the beams on the ceiling. All alone, the father got his son down on the floor and administered CPR until a pulse returned. The paramedics arrived with the youth pastor and again the pulse was gone; the paramedics got the pulse back on the way to the hospital. After another ambulance ride to a larger hospital and hours of no sleep, the family finally dealt with the reality that their 16-year-old son had committed suicide. Dad was mowing the grass. Mom was at the grocery store. They were going to watch a movie later that night they had already picked out. There was no final conversation that gave them a tip or raised concerns.

The family would gather around their son with a community and ultimately hear the news that their son, brother, friend was brain dead. A shocked church and devastated high school would spend the next days under a dark cloud.

The most difficult thing about this story is that though I have changed the names of the people represented here to protect privacy; this story is everywhere; these people are everywhere. It seems no one is untouched. I personally have encountered this tragic tale time and again this year alone through many pastor friends across our nation. It has brought us to our knees.

We are all interconnected. When one person hurts in a community, ultimately, the rest of the community feels it. The ramifications of one person, who is in a place of confusion or loneliness, can make ripples that extend to every corner of our society.

The family knew that their child had been struggling with some common depression; they had even been dealing with the signs and taking steps they thought were appropriate. How did it escalate this quickly without anyone realizing it? This young man was very much like many people you and I see every day.

Mental illness can be debilitating and it can be aggressive.

September is the National Suicide Awareness Month. Not all cases of mental illness end tragically, but if one does, it is one to many. So what can we do? The best place to start is to know the signs of suicide:

What are the signs?

Are your loved ones talking about: 

  • Unbearable pain
  • Feeling trapped
  • Having no reason to live
  • Being a burden to others

Do your loved ones have these behaviors?

  • Withdrawing from activities
  • Acting recklessly
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol
  • Isolating from friends or family
  • Aggression
  • Giving away possessions
  • Researching suicide methods

 Does their mood display any of these signs?

  • Depression
  • Rage
  • Irritability
  • Lack of interest
  • Humiliation

Land on hope.

Hope is central to who God made us to be. God is even known as the one who is “of hope”. Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” When we loose hope, we loose our footing in the battle against mental illness.

Stand with others.

One way to get hope is to stand with others who can lend a hand up. You are not the only person struggling like this. Others have gone before you and found victory and you can too. Here are some resources for you if you are struggling or if you alone:

  • Crisis Text Line offers free, 24/7 crisis support to those in need. To get connected with a free crisis counselor, text TWLOHA to 741741.
  • The Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free, and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. All you have to do is call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
  • The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24. The organization also has a free crisis lifeline, online chat, and text option. If you need help, call 1-866-488-7386.
  • The Veterans Crisis Line connects veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available.

Hope begins to take deep root when we all say that the problem is OURS. If we all take ownership of the solution, we start to find real hope for the growing casualties of mental illness. When we all become aware of the warning signs, we can all help. When no one stands alone any longer, true hope can take deep root.