National Suicide Prevention Week
By Vicar Lisa
Nothing can separate us from the love of God but sometimes it is very hard to recognize that, especially if one is suffering from depression. This week is National Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 10-16). Suicide is a hard topic to talk about, but it is a big problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates increased approximately 36 percent between 2000–2021. Suicide was responsible for 48,183 deaths in 2021, which is about one death every 11 minutes. The number of people who think about or attempt suicide is even higher.
Suicide affects people of all ages. In 2021, suicide was among the top nine leading causes of death for people ages 10-64. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 and 20-34. Suicide occurs among all demographics, including all religious groups. And behind these statistics are individuals–people who live in our families, communities and congregations and whose stories and relationships are unique and important.
When ELCA Pastor Sherry Bryant’s 22-year-old son Todd died by suicide in 1993, she felt her congregation at the time wasn’t a safe place to talk about her loss and grief, largely because of old belief systems—especially within the church—about the “sin” and stigma of suicide. Bryant wants communities of faith to learn about how to talk about suicide and mental health. She believes that, for too long, those communities have viewed such discussions as “scary and dangerous.” She said research has changed what she was taught in graduate school in the 1980s.
According to research in the last 25 years, ASKING about suicide—having the courage to speak the word and just listen—is the one suicide prevention tool any of us need. Ordinary people—not just professionals—can do this. In fact, ordinary people do this better than professionals because our neighbors, friends, relatives, colleagues, and classmates have a connection to us that is far more important than professionals. Churches and faith-based communities are the perfect delivery system for this support because of the caring connections—not just to each other but to a living God who gives meaning and inspiration to our lives.
Many of us are afraid to talk about suicide because decades ago public health information stigmatized the topic—declaring that discussion of suicide would encourage and plant the seed in a person’s head and heart. Now we know that discussion tends to lower the anxiety around the issue and create a lifeline connection between two people that can save lives. The more people can talk openly and without fear about suicide to a person who is at risk, the more a life-giving network is built around that person.
The ELCA Church Council has provided a list of resources that we can use to learn more about suicide and how to prevent it.
Lutheran Suicide Prevention Ministry: With an inclusive and interfaith mission, the Lutheran Suicide Prevention Ministry’s goal is zero suicides for all people, regardless of beliefs. The website includes resources for congregations, clergy, and leaders, including lists of trusted faith-based mental health organizations.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: The Lifeline provides free, 24/7, confidential support for people in distress and advice for professionals. (800-273-8255)
National Alliance on Mental Illness: The nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization provides information on warning signs and risk factors for suicide and resources for helping people with mental illnesses.
ELCA video message on suicide prevention: Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton shares a message of hope, saying, “Suicide can be prevented. We are never beyond God’s mercy and compassion.”
In addition, everyone should be aware of the three-digit national suicide crisis line, 988, connects people experiencing suicidal crisis or mental-health-related distress with the care and support they need. The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act was signed into law in 2020, and as of 2022, all phone companies and text-messaging providers were required to route all calls and text messages to 988 to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
I apologize if this topic upsets anyone, but it is so important to talk about this problem. To quote from the ELCA website, “We who lean on God’s love to live are called to ‘bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ’ (Galatians 6:2). Our efforts to prevent suicide grow out of our obligation to protect and promote life, our hope in God amid suffering and adversity, and our love for our troubled neighbor.”
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 17, 2023
10 a.m. Worship with Holy Communion
E-formation - Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 17, 2023
The gospel this coming Sunday is a harsh parable about forgiveness. Yet even if we feel condemned by this reading, we receive God’s mercy at the table of the Lord. Come to worship, to be forgiven, and to be empowered to forgive others.
This fourth discourse provides a response to the first discourse in Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount: Christians do not, in fact, live in godly perfection, but continuously need the mercy of God and the forgiveness of the community. The use of the imagery of debt suggests that we owe to one another both ethical living and gracious forgiveness.
The conclusion of the Joseph legends was chosen to parallel Matthew’s story of the unforgiving slave. The Christian insistence that we are to forgive one another repeats the message in the Hebrew Bible that calls for forgiveness within the community. Indeed, the popular notion that forgiveness is a virtue invented by Christians is false.
Paul’s refusal to lay down a Christian law and his call to forbearance within the community come as a “word of life” to us as in our own time we fiercely debate conflicted issues. What binds us into one is the death and resurrection of Christ, not uniformity in open questions. We are to trust that it is God who judges.
Zion's Lutheran Church