It’s heartbreaking to learn that suicide rates across Australia have increased by 20% in the last decade.
Is there nothing we can do to reverse this tragic trend?
Many are striving to do so. Some are finding ways to reach out and connect with people who are suffering from mental illnesses. Others are helping those struggling with suicidal tendencies to overturn the stereotypes and lead happy and successful lives.
For instance, a Sunshine Coast couple have responded to high suicide rates by launching Mindstar, online video technology that aims to connect people with mental health professionals at any time of the day or night.
In addition, Facebook is taking action on a global scale. This month, in collaboration with local mental health organisations worldwide, the social media behemoth is offering support to people who may be experiencing self-injury or suicidal thoughts. Friends can reach out directly to a friend who has posted something concerning — and they can also alert supportive organisations about the post.
Perhaps even more key than well-meaning psychological assessments, will be the human connection – the expression of loving care and the sharing of ideas on how to achieve immediate and lasting solutions.
There is interesting research that could help to influence a change in community attitudes to the pressing issue of mental health. The Conversation has published results of a study by the University of Melbourne that suggests that practitioners who see mental health problems as “biogenetically caused diseases” view patients as relatively dangerous, unpredictable and unlikely to recover; increasing stigma rather than helping sufferers.
Whether suffering from such a prognosis or implications of the many social determinants of mental health, a negative assessment is undoubtedly sensed by the patient; a point that was made by health reformer Mary Baker Eddy. From her own experience, she was able to write, “A patient hears the doctor’s verdict as a criminal hears his death‐sentence.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures)
In the case of those who are broken-hearted, a pronouncement of mental illness adds to the burden of hopelessness they’re experiencing.
But there’s another way to approach such challenging circumstances. Sizing up the situation from a spiritual perspective, an entirely different conclusion can be reached.
Jesus is often thought of as a social reformer but his challenge to the accepted norms of his day went much deeper than that. For instance, he questioned the accepted interpretation of physical laws. When it was suggested to him that a man with a disability or his parents must be the cause of the problem, he fired back that neither were to blame. Based on his love and understanding of the man’s innate spiritual perfection, he was then and there able to heal the man of congenital blindness.
The same understanding transformed a man labelled insane, who was self-harming and who everyone else was afraid to approach.
From Jesus’ example we can come to realise that no-one is a lost cause.
Acknowledging the presence of a higher power – recognised in Christian Science as an entirely good and loving divine Principle, forever one with each of us – can help to diffuse limited views. To do so is prayer, which is a way of deeply caring for those who may be struggling with dark thoughts. Such prayer can have a tangible, healing impact.
Ellen Hammond relates how one evening she noticed someone standing beyond the outside railing of the bridge above her as she drove on the highway below. She was not able to stop to see for certain what was happening, but wanting to respond to that individual’s silent cry for help, she realised she could do more than just feel sorry for the man, she could pray.
The first thing that came to mind were the words of a dearly loved hymn: “Everlasting arms of Love / Are beneath, around, above.” To her, this meant that Love, another name for the Divine, was the only active presence, completely surrounding and tenderly caring for her and everyone, everywhere and always…and no one could opt out of being loved by God.
She contemplated these and associated ideas throughout the evening until she felt a sense of real peace about the situation. A few days later she did an Internet search about the incident. She learned that a man had indeed been planning to jump off the bridge at that time. And with great gratitude she read that an off-duty police officer had talked with the man until he changed his mind and climbed back over the railing to safety. The article specifically noted that the officer hugged this man for a while.
To me, prayer acts as a kind of mental reinforcement for the efforts of the many people doing everything they can to address the problem of suicide.
Spiritual thinkers establish an atmosphere of expected good. As we each adopt that viewpoint we’ll notice when things are not as they should be for a friend or even for someone we’ve never met before. We’ll reach out to help them, knowing that life-changing solutions are assured and will be provided.
This article was published on the Sunshine Coast Daily and 40 other APN news sites.