By Dr. Siyuan Chen Kennedy
She’s 35. She is a wife, a mom, and PTO president. Her life looks incredible to everyone, but when things are quiet, her mind races. She isn’t sure she wants to live. What she is sure of is this: “No one feels the way I do. No one would understand.” She’s wrong.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S. In 2021, more than 48,000 Americans died by suicide, and there were an estimated 1.7 million attempts. On average, there are 132 suicides per day.
Suicide is one of the most important but least talked-about subjects in modern society, especially in Christian communities. Shame and guilt often prevent people of faith from confiding in others, and many potential helpers are not sure what to do if someone does confide in them. Because we care about saving lives as well as saving souls, we must better equip ourselves.
For those who have survived a suicide attempt, we all experience hopelessness and helplessness at some point. At varying levels, we can all relate emotionally with each other. You don’t have to struggle alone. We all need God’s grace, mercy, hope, forgiveness, and joy every day. We are all broken and sinful but can be adopted into God’s family. And what does a family do when a member is hurting? Family comes together. So, consider telling someone you trust about your struggle so you can have help in your journey.
For those who have lost someone to suicide, we surely find no evidence that their salvation has been taken away by simply committing the action itself. Their decision was made in a moment of desperation when they could see no other viable alternatives. As painful as your loss may be, try to lean into demonstrating love, acceptance, understanding, and respect. As someone “left behind,” you may experience trauma, grief, and loss afterward. Those complicated feelings of numbness, anger, guilt, sadness, confusion, loss of direction, helplessness, and hopelessness need to be appropriately addressed. It’s wise to seek professional therapy, a support group, and/or pastoral counsel during the healing process.
If you have never been touched by suicide, you still have a role to play. Prevention is the key within the community, church, family, and social circles. We are living in a digital world full of virtual connections from the internet, yet we are increasingly lonely and isolated from each other. A heartfelt “How are you doing?” can make a huge difference! Imagine if we truly cared for each other’s well-being and listened to each other’s struggles. How much better might the world become?
If you need immediate support, please call the national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, or text the word HOME to 741741 to receive help via the Crisis Text Line. Both services are free.
Dr. Siyuan Chen Kennedy, also known as Dr. Karen, is a licensed professional counselor (LPC) at The Center for Hope and Healing in Madison. She does individual, couple, and family counseling for all ages, including neurodivergent populations. She has a multicultural background and can speak Cantonese, Mandarin Chinese, English, and Japanese.