A note from Kelly King: With recent headlines surrounding Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s suicides, today’s article is a reminder that we must have a plan to come beside those who are contemplating taking their own lives. Suicide is never an easy topic to tackle, but it is one that must be addressed in our ministries. We must educate and be proactive by being prepared to help others. As the headline reads, if you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, direct them to 1-800-273-TALK right away.
The title of this article today is the number for the National Suicide Hotline. If you don’t already have it in your phone or in your referral database, add it now. Why? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among Americans, claiming 1 person every 12 minutes. Data from the World Health Organization indicates that the United States has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world.
I hate death.
I have been a Christ-follower for almost 33 years. I believe without reservation that at the crucifixion, Christ ransomed us from the finality of death in eternity—not the reality of it now, but the finality of it. I also believe, according to 1 Corinthians 15, that one day, in a single gulp, Jesus will swallow death and its sting (that’s the pain we feel now) once and for all—erasing even the reality of it.
That day is not today.
With suicide in the headlines and on the rise in all age groups, it is imperative that we have a plan. In times of crisis, we initially respond with our limbic system (fight, flight, freeze). Without a plan in place, this will be our default every time. If you have a plan in place and every one on your team knows what it is, fantastic. If not, I suggest this simple plan:
- If the woman you are speaking with is using language that is concerning to you, or if her current situation is unusually heavy, ask, “Are you having thoughts to harm yourself?” Asking the question isn’t going to put the idea in her head if it’s not already there. Not asking the question could be the difference between life and death.
- If she says, “No,” great! Make sure you end your conversation with good next steps or referrals for her situation, a plan for support going forward, and prayer, of course!
- If she says, “Yes,” then your follow-up question is, “On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 meaning you have a plan and you know how and when you are going to do it, where would you place yourself?”
- If she answers 6 or higher, call 911. If you are talking to her on the phone, keep talking to her. If someone is near you to help, have them call 911 and ask them to do a “wellness check.” If you have to end the call, or if she ends the call, call 911 and ask for a “wellness check.”
- If she answers lower than 6, then you are probably going to make a counseling referral for her or give her the information to a local behavioral health hospital where she can be evaluated for free. At the very least, please give her this 800 National Suicide Hotline so she can make a call if she feels her thoughts are slipping to a dark place.
That’s it, simple and straight forward. The simpler the plan, the easier it will be to remember in a moment of crisis. I am praying for you as you minister to the hurting women in your church and community.
Kaye Hurta has a Masters Degree in counseling from Liberty University and is a crisis counselor for Women’s Events through LifeWay Christian Resources. Whether speaking, singing, or listening, Kaye’s passion is to help others find intimacy with Christ and soul transformation through the living pages of His Word. Kaye met and married her husband Chris in Austin, Texas in 1987. They have two daughters through the miracle of adoption, Madison and Cami. They live in the Chicago burbs where they are both on staff at Willow Creek Community Church. Kaye is also a contributing author for the LifeWay resource, Women Reaching Women in Crisis.