Helping a suicidal friend
Originally appeared online in the teen series: Trending - September 17, 2019
2018 had the highest number of suicides in the history of my county in recent years. Unfortunately, 2018 was also the year I learned that a close friend wanted to add himself to that statistic. Though I’d been aware of this tragic trend at my school, it was only when I began to have long conversations with my friend, desperately trying to convince him not to take his life, that I thought to turn to Christian Science for an answer.
At first, I wasn’t sure how to go about it. I’ve read lots of great testimonies in which people were almost instantly healed just by reading the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. But sadly, helping my friend would not be as easy as handing him a book, considering that he isn’t very religious or fond of reading. Still, I knew that even if he wasn’t interested in learning about God for himself, I could make a difference by praying to clarify my own understanding of my friend as loved by God, known by God, and protected by God.
I knew that even if my friend wasn’t interested in learning about God, I could still make a difference by praying.
As a starting point for my prayers, I studied a story in the Bible about the prophet Elijah and how he listened to God (see I Kings 19:1–12). Elijah faced some pretty terrible things—like an earthquake and a fire—which might have made God seem very far away. But the Bible says that while God wasn’t in the chaos, He was still there—and Elijah was able to hear God as “a still small voice.”
That last verse was important to me, because I could put any human problem (depression, suicide, and so on) in place of the fire, and the story would apply. God is not in the chaotic problems we seem to face every day. But He is the still, small voice guiding us to have good lives—to feel secure and valued.
Elijah’s story was also helpful to me in praying about my friend’s desire to take his own life, because after Elijah ran away from some problems he was dealing with, he was so upset that he actually asked God to take away his life. However, by listening to God’s still, small voice, Elijah ended up being led in the right direction—not only out of his despair, but also to specific solutions to his problems (see verses 15–18). After reading through this story, I felt much more assured that I wasn’t alone in trying to help my friend.
God gave me a good way to think about my friend’s situation, but the question still remained: If I couldn’t share these ideas with him, how could my prayers help him change his mind-set? I continued to pray about this question, and I also read some testimonies in the Christian Science Sentinel related to preventing suicide. As I did, this passage from Science and Health stuck out to me: “Truth has a healing effect, even when not fully understood” (p. 152).
I suddenly understood that even if my friend didn’t know it, he couldn’t escape God’s presence, care, and love, because God’s presence, care, and love are the truth, the reality, of each of our lives. No matter what someone believes, they really are protected from fear, sadness, and depression and can be guided by God out of any troubling thought or situation, because that is the nature of our relation to God as His dearly loved children. I realized that on the deepest level, my friend was safe, always protected by God, always loved—and that he could feel that.
What I’ve learned from praying to prevent suicide is how necessary every individual is to the wholeness of God’s creation—how each of us is God’s valued and loved child, not a corporeal body to count in a statistic. Now more than ever before, I see this preciousness in both my friend and me. While both his and my mind-sets have improved over the course of my prayer, I know I’ll continue praying about this issue, because I now know how much of a difference prayer can make.