Question:

Question

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I have a problem that I have never had to deal with before and pray that I will not experience anything like it again. One of our member's granddaughter attempted suicide, by an overdose of prescription medication, last night. She is only fifteen years old, a very sweet young girl, but one that is obviously (now) troubled. She and her family are not members of the Lord's body but do have a denominational background. At the hospital this morning she was very apologetic to her mother, grandfather and even me. I know that she is embarrassed and experiencing extreme guilt over her actions but will also have to deal with her personal guilt for a long time to come. Even after she has been forgiven by others she must find a way to forgive herself which will likely be the most difficult part of her recovery.

I have offered my assistance if they desire to talk with someone other than a professional and informed them that any discussions would be based in the Bible. If we get to the point that they trust me enough to sit down and discuss this terrifying experience, how would you conduct these very personal and private sessions with the family? Is there one way of doing things that you have found to be helpful in these circumstances? Any and all suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

My concern is first and foremost the well being of their souls; by showing them that God is the "Father of mercies and the God of all comfort." I believe that God is giving me a door of opportunity and that much good will come from this if I proceed with a compassionate heart. Please pray that I will use the wisdom provided in God's Holy Word properly, that I will speak the truth in love, and that not only physical life will be saved but that souls will be convinced to be obedient to the will of the Lord.


Answer:

The number one thing is to listen (James 1:19). Not just to the words, but watch the body language as well. When something is said that is not clear, ask questions to get things clarified. It will not only help you, but it will demonstrate that you really are listening and are interested in that person. This is absolutely critical because based on what you hear, you are going to give advise. Arbitrary advice is generally rejected, but advice given when the other person feels you know where they are coming from will be listened to with interest (Ecclesiastes 7:5).

Teenagers tend to be emotional powder-kegs. The physical changes caused by increased and fluctuating hormones cause emotions to be amplified. The ability to reason is just developing and the ability to make sound judgments is not in place yet. Recent studies show that teenagers are unable to correctly identify facial expressions. A look of annoyance can easily be interpreted by a teenager as anger. Adding all this up means you have a person swayed by extreme swings of emotions but with no breaking mechanism of reason and who is unable to judge situations accurately. Is it any wonder that a teenager facing a break-up of a three month "relationship" thinks it is the absolute end of the world?

The reason the young lady is contrite and embarrassed is that her emotional fuel is spent. Now her budding reasoning is able to function and she is shocked at her own actions. She very likely will try to convince herself that there must be something wrong with her.

What you need to do if find out what triggered the sequence of events. She needs to be able to review her past and see where she had alternative choices. Too many teenagers think they are trapped in various situations. In other words, she needs to understand I Corinthians 10:13 in detail.

Next, you need to find out why she thought suicide was a viable solution. Was she seeking escape from a problem, hoping to get revenge, or garner sympathy? Here she needs instruction to see the reality of suicide and that it doesn't gain her anything that she had hoped it would bring (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Finally, you need to help her lay future plans. She needs to think about how she is going to respond in the future to similar situations, hopefully making better choices. But even more important, she needs goals and aspirations. A person who knows where they are going might slip at times, but they pick themselves up. Without a goal, depression sets in and people wallow in self-pity.

"In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death" (Proverbs 12:28).

See also:
Why is suicide a sin?
Can suicide be forgiven?
The Courage to Live