A number of years ago, on Valentine's Day, a couple was enjoying a romantic drive along a wooded section near Belle Chasse, Louisiana. Something white, shimmering in the trees, caught their eyes. Their investigation led them to a dead teenager hanging from a limb, a white bedsheet knotted tightly around his neck. A farewell note, laced with despair, was near the trunk of the tree. It was addressed simply to "Mom and Dad."
I never did develop into a real person and I cannot tolerate the false and empty existence I have created. . . . What frustrated me most in the last year was that I had built no ties to family or friends. There was nothing of lasting worth and value. I led a detached existence. . . . I am a bomb of frustration and should never marry or have children. It is safest to defuse the bomb harmlessly now . . . simply cremate me as John Doe.
Authorities circulated the youth's description and fingerprints to police across the country. He was later buried—unidentified and unclaimed.
Grim and gripping though they are, such scenes and words are not that unusual. Our nervous age seems on trial for its life, and the fuse on the powder keg is becoming shorter by the day! Contrary to popular opinion, people who threaten suicide often mean it. The old myth "those who talk don't jump" is dangerously false. Threats should be taken seriously.
Suicide, the ultimate rejection of one's self, plays no favorites and knows no limit. In my files and memory are unforgettable cases that span the extremes: a successful banker, a disillusioned divorcée, a runaway, the son of a missionary, a mother of three, a wealthy cartoonist, a professional musician, several collegians, a Marine, a retired grandfather, a medical doctor, a middle-aged playboy, a brilliant accountant, a growing number of teens who were in junior and senior high schools. These individuals struggled with feelings of loneliness, worthlessness, insecurity, a lack of hope, intense perfectionism, alienation from meaningful relationships, and a tragic sense of feeling unloved and unlovely.
In all of this darkness, there is one beacon of light. People considering suicide usually want to be rescued. They leave clues that read, "Help me!" They drop hints, consciously or unconsciously, that announce their intentions.
Sensitive, concerned observers ought to be alert to the signals. Here are a few: (1) talk about suicide; (2) a sudden change in personality; (3) deep depression; (4) physical symptoms—sleeplessness, loss of appetite, decreased sexual drive, drastic weight loss, repeated exhaustion; (5) actual attempts; and (6) crisis situations—death of a loved one, failure at school, loss of a job, marital or home problems, and a lengthy or terminal illness.
These, of course, are not "sure signs," but anyone that seems unusually suspicious warrants your time and offer of help. Occasionally, all that is needed is someone to step in and be a friend . . . a listening ear . . . a support to lean on . . . a shelter in the time of storm. That's genuine Body life! That's Romans 15:1 in action:
We who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength.
Certainly you should contact your physician or ask advice from your local suicide prevention hotline if you become reasonably concerned. A close friend, a professional counselor, a church officer, or a pastor might also be of valuable assistance. Don't hesitate to seek advice.
The need is urgent . . . and always great. During the time it took you to read this, numbers of people in America attempted to end their lives.