No one ever thinks his or her child would consider suicide. I know my parents never did.
When I was 21 years old, my greatest fear wasn’t dying; it was living. I was in a painful season when it appeared more unreasonable to just exist than it did to put a gun to my head.
All I could see of my life was failure, pain in a college dropout, alcohol addiction, and broken relationships. I hated the man I saw in the mirror so much that I began to scream at my own reflection.
I cannot help but think of the thousands of individuals who feel just like I did – worthless, hopeless and ready to die.
Before I held a gun to my head, I considered shooting myself in a nonlethal location so I could garner sympathy from loved ones – an attempt at crying out for help. That eventually escalated though, leading me to a day in 1987 when I fully intended to pull the trigger and end it all.
I sat in my room with a .22 pistol’s cold barrel against my temple, ready to pull the trigger. Thankfully, for me, that was the same day my roommate’s dad decided to reward him for working so hard and gave him the remainder of the day off – something his father had never before done before.
My roommate’s unexpected arrival home is what initially saved my life, but many are not so lucky.
Today, September 10, World Suicide Prevention Day, I cannot help but think of the thousands of individuals who feel just like I did – worthless, hopeless and ready to die.
New research published last week in The Lancet Psychiatry points to young people who identify as goth are five times more likely to self-harm by the age of 18. But, in reality, suicide is a pandemic that affects the young and old, rich and poor, Christian and non-Christian.
I came from a suburban, middle-class, Christian family. I had really an incredible upbringing and parents most kids would die to have. From the outside, no one would have guessed I would be at risk.
That is the thing about suicide. No one is immune.
It is rare that an individual who attempts suicide does not first exhibit warning signs, which can be indicators of trouble for friends, family and educators, including:
1. Depression/Uncharacteristic Moodiness. One of the main contributors to suicidal tendencies is the onslaught of depression. Many fight this battle in silence. The key to breaking the code is through providing an open line of communication and access to professional help. Many times the solution can be as simple as a medical prescription.
2. Aggression. Unusual bouts of rage, uncontrolled anger, and the attacks of others are red flags. Often these outbursts are a cry for attention or help. Regrettably, they seldom accomplish the intended results of the offender. While hoping for others to console or reach out to them the opposite reaction of isolation or rejection is often the response they receive.
3. Alcohol, Drug or Prescription Medication Abuse. A person who usually doesn’t partake of these vices or uses them sparingly and who is suddenly using or indulging is an indicator of someone looking for an escape.
4. Isolation or Withdrawal. While all young adults go through a stage of not wanting to hang out with their family, those who are disconnecting from family and friends can be those showing a propensity to unplug from reality or life.
5. Threats. Many suicides were preceded by “calls for help” that were misunderstood as someone just trying to get attention. Comments like, “I wish I wasn’t alive,” “I am not good enough,” “I just don’t want to go on,” or “I wish I had never been born” should be taken with extreme caution.
6. Tragedy. The loss of a loved one, family member, close friendship, or girl or boyfriend can be overwhelming. Especially for those fighting emotional instability.
While today is dedicated to bringing awareness to suicide prevention, the fact there is one suicide in the U.S. every 13 seconds proves this needs to be a year-round discussion.
Jay Lowder is a full-time evangelist and founder of Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries and author of “Midnight in Aisle 7: Sometimes God Introduces Himself Outside the Church Walls.” Follow him on Twitter at @jaylowder or @jlhministries.