When Prayers Aren't Enough: Addressing Suicide and Religion
I want to address the issue of suicide and specifically the way the majority of the religious Black Community responds to it. The image above was a status I posted on Facebook in response to a status a friend of mine posted about wanting to end her life. More than half of the comments were condemning her instead of trying to talk her out of it. “If you kill yourself you’re going to hell.” “That’s just the devil, you were raised better than that.” “Our family is strong don’t let the weakness take over.”
I reached out to her because it was a cry for help that hit home. About six years ago a woman I was dating who I’ll refer to as “K” attempted suicide. Before she consumed a nearly lethal amount of her bipolar and sleeping medication she posted a Facebook status that simply stated “I’m leaving.” She posted the status around 5 AM but I didn’t see it until two hours later. I commented “you aren’t going anywhere” but shortly after received an inbox message from her sister asking me to delete it. She informed me that K was in the hospital. I felt my heart drop out of my chest.
Once I was able to talk to K, she explained to me why she attempted suicide and I was livid. She was living at home with her parents who are very religious and did not approve of her sexual preference. The night before her suicide attempt we spent most of the night together and didn’t get back home until 4 AM. Her mother was awake and told K she was the odd one in the family and she wished something would have happened to her on her way home. K couldn’t believe her mom would say something so cruel. Her mother’s painful words pushed her to her breaking point.
Her sister found her unconscious on the floor and called 911. When K’s family was able to see her in the hospital her mom asked why would she do something so foolish and God didn’t approve. She showed no empathy at all. When she got the ok to go home I offered for her to stay with me to get away from her mother, but she didn’t accept it. I also suggested she talk to someone professionally but she told me she didn’t ever want to talk about what happened ever again. Even though we never discussed it again, it was hard for me not to constantly ask her if she was doing alright. We eventually stopped dating for unrelated reasons, but we are still friends today. She seems to be in a better state of mind, but I’ll never really know for sure.
There’s some more examples of how people lack compassion whenever it comes to people who are depressed and may become suicidal. Where is the compassion that’s also talked about in religion?
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Instead most religious people just want to talk about internal damnation. Suicide shouldn’t be looked at as a sign of weakness. Some suicide victims show signs of depression but not all. To learn more about depression and its symptoms click here.
It’s hard enough coming out but to also be shunned and often disowned by people who say they love you can take a tremendous toll mentally. According to The Trevor Project “LGBT youth who come from highly rejected families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGBT peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection. Each episode of LGBT victimization, such physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average."
While we may think it's enough to tell someone who is suffering to "just pray about it", we should offer more than that. Sometimes all a person in crisis needs is to be heard and know that they are not alone.