Did Vincent Van Gogh really commit suicide, or is there more to the story than we think? In light of recent suicides (Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain) Jeff comes to you with a special episode on preventing and responding to suicides. Speaking from personal experience, he shares the signs that typically lead to someone wanting to take their life. He also shares ideas as to how you can respond, what the Church teaches, and practical things you can do if you or someone you know is feeling depressed.
Part 1: Suicide & Church Teaching & What We Can Learn
Church Teaching About Suicide
CCC 2280 – Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.
CCC 2281 – Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.
CCC 2282 – If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law. Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.
CCC 2283 – We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.
What Can We Learn from the Church’s Teaching?
- If someone in your family committed suicide, you cannot go the rest of your life blaming yourself. “Everyone is responsible for his life before God.”
- We are stewards of life, not owners. If you struggle with thoughts of suicide, do your best to act as a steward and seek help, don’t act as if you own your life and make an independent decision. Your loved ones would hope that you would conduct yourself as a steward. As a steward you are a spouse, friend, father, mother.
- Suicide is offensive to others because it breaks the ties of solidarity with family and others to which we have obligations. Robin Williams, Kate Spade, and Anthony Bourdain had obligations. Obligations supersede feelings and emotions. I know it’s serious, but that statement might save someone’s life. We can’t be afraid to say the truth in love.
- Remember that suicide can establish a very unhealthy example to others and can put you in a place where you are voluntarily contributing to the demise of others.
- Serious suffering, hardship and anguish can diminish responsibility, but is not an excuse in itself.
- Because someone you love has taken their own life does not, mean they in hell. Never despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their life. God can provide the opportunity for repentance.
Part 2: Possible Reasons for Depression & Solutions to Help Deal with Discouragement
Possible Reasons for Depression
- Chemical imbalance—A chemical balance in the brain can certainly be the cause of depression or anxiety in a person. A chemical can change people in many ways. Sometimes this is an organic change in the brain treated with therapy and/or prescription medicine and that is an ok thing. Often times too, people have experienced something in their life that causes a chemical imbalance in their brain, and they do need help. Either way, get help.
- Physical health problems such as a chronic illness
- Stressful life event—trauma
- Grief and loss
- Unhealthy living—What I am talking about is not getting the proper sleep, not eating a good balanced diet, not getting exercise, or drinking too much alcohol, which is a natural depressant.
- Unforgiveness—I have noticed a wound in many peoples’ lives, a wound… as I experienced… a wound that wasn’t taken care of properly.
- Sin—Can lead to depression and sin can lead to anxiety in a person’s life, because sin is where conduct ourselves.
- The comparison trap—and we talked about this a little bit on our show last week called “Mirror, Mirror on the Web.”
If you are struggling, and you are depressed or contemplating suicide or you know of someone who is. Get help.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s phone number is 1-800-273-8255.
“Train Your Brain, Engage Your Heart, Transform Your Life” by: Dr. Amit Sood.
“Guide to Stress Free Living” by: Dr. Amit Sood.
Dr. Sood emphasizes that both physical and emotional health have more to do with the decisions of the heart and our perspective on life. He speaks about cultivating emotional resilience by exercising…
Think On the Right Things
You know, Paul said in Philippians 4:8-9: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you.”
Sing Praise to God
We give thanks to God as Paul said to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ”
Recommended Article: LA Times: “Church Attendance Links with Reduced Suicide Risk Especially for Catholics”
WINE: Women In the New Evangelization. Find fellowship with others. You can find that group at www.catholicvineyard.com
Where Is Your Hope Placed?
When you’re depressed, place your hope in God.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance. …For You are the God of my strength…”
-Psalm 42:5, 43:2 (NKJV)
Our Response to Someone Who Has Lost a Loved One to Suicide
- Don’t Judge
- Prayer (CCC 2223)
- Encourage those who have lost someone to get help
- Don’t celebrate suicide, it’s tragic. Focus on learning from the situation and helping others.
The gospel tells us that it is good that you exist. God loves you and God has an amazing plan for your life.
Don’t put a period where God put a comma.
“Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Do you have comments or questions for Jeff? Use the comment box below, or email Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may hear your question or comment in an upcoming podcast episode!