Talking about suicide?

I was moved by the cover story in the Weekend Australian magazine about suicide, which reported calls from a number of people for society to talk more about suicide, to bring it into the open in the hope of preventing it. It sounded like a good idea.

But then today I read a response on the ABC Drum saying this is the worst possible response.  Kerri Sackville writes that it was the publicity around newsreader Charmain Dragun’s suicide that gave Kerri’s sister ‘permission’ to kill herself. Kerri writes of the phenomenon of ‘copycat’ suicides. She says that unlike car crashes, which no-one wants to be in and thus can be advertised against, suicide is attractive to people with suicidal thoughts.

If she is right, how silent should we be? And how does suicide shed its sense of shame and isolation for the survivors if we are silent?

For the church, it seems to me that churches where people are not involved in each other’s lives, churches where people are familiar strangers, have little hope of saving people from suicide.

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4 thoughts on “Talking about suicide?

  1. Hey Nathan, great thoughts. Do you think some of it is *how* we talk about suicide rather than *whether* we talk about it?

    I doubt there’s an easy solution to the issue of suicide simply because it is so delicately serious. But I would suspect that part of the solution lies in relationships where people feel safe enough to talk about their real temptations. Relationships like this can’t be produced by a policy regarding what we talk about, alone. They arise from people who have a genuine understanding of how much God loves them (warts and all) as seen in Christ’s cross-work (1 John 4:10ff.). Our pragmatic culture often doesn’t have the time or patience for this because it’s hard messy work. (At least I find it hard work!) Hence, the importance of a palpable Christian community that does it.

  2. I agree – the way we talk about it must be part of it. And as for the pragmatic culture – yes, we’re swimming against the tide there. Not that Victorian culture, as one instance, would have been more open. But possibly people were less isolated.

  3. Hi Nathan, we’ve talked about suicide before from the discussion on my blog. I appreciate your thoughts. Since the incident at Angel last year I’ve been contacting the rail companies to talk to them about the experience of drivers. They call those suicides where someone throws themself under the train ‘one unders’. I still think about what happened ten months later. I know what you mean about getting people to talk more. There are hundreds of incidents each year like the one I mentioned. Most of them don’t even make the media. Shalom, phil

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Phil. A big issue, and I’ve got little to contribute to it, but it was on my mind seeing the article and the response and not knowing what to think.

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