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Before It's Too Late

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They stood there numb. It couldn’t be. Not their son Robert. Not Robert with the dark-brown hair that curled slightly around his temples, just like his dad’s. Not Robert, their energetic firstborn who, at least it seemed, had become a teenager over night.

Yet, now his casket was being lowered into the earth. Their Robert was dead. Suicide. The crumpled note he’d left contained so many unanswered questions. Questions that begged for answers. But there were none.

Each year more than 25,000 American young people kill themselves. This makes suicide the second leading cause of death for this age group. The problem is so serious that some officials consider suicide to be an epidemic among young people. The problem is greatest among young me. They seem to kill themselves about three times more often than young women.

What do we know about suicide? Are there clues to look for that might make it possible to stop a person from killing himself?

The most common reason for suicide among young people is feeling unloved and uncared for. This is aggravated by the problems of growing up in a confusing world where it’s difficult to know what’s expected of you and where you fit in.

Many who study suicide today believe it’s a desperate cry for help. It says to friends and loved ones that there’s a strong need for love and understanding that is not being met in the person’s daily life.

Based on this assumption, it’s believed that most suicides can be prevented if we respond properly to that cry with love and understanding. Evidence supporting this belief is found in the fact that there are nearly ten times more attempted suicides than successful suicides.

Contrary to popular belief, suicide is no longer considered to be a sudden impulsive act. Research has shown that most people who kill themselves have carefully laid out a plan for their death over a period of at least three months prior to their suicidal act.

It’s believed that during this planning phase the suicidal person unconsciously drops a series of “cues” that may indicate his desperate intention. Some of the clues commonly observed in a young person are:

  1. A sudden loss in appetite.

  2. Any loss of interest in usual friends or activities.

  3. Changes in sleeping patterns.

  4. Giving away of prized possessions.

  5. Frequent talks of death or statements such as “You’d be better off without me.”

  6. An unusual interest in different means of death and/or the collecting of weapons.

  7. An interest in wills, life insurance, et cetera.

  8. Visiting with friends and family members in a way that may be interpreted as saying “Goodbye.”

  9. An overall sadness and withdrawal from family functions.

Do you know someone who’s been showing some of these symptoms? Let them know you’re listening. Show them you’re willing to give any kind of help you can.

Remember, loving concerned intervention can effectively stop the act of suicide anytime during the planning steps.

For a deeper investigation of the topic of preventing suicide, read Choosing Life—Victory Over the Temptation to End It All, a vital part of the Winning Series of Friendship tracts.

Copyright © 1996, Published for NAD Church Ministries Department

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