3 Reasons Why: Suicide

“Dear Mom and Dad,

I always feel sad, but I hide it. I’m so tired of going through each day. Is this normal for a 16- year old? Or is there something wrong with me?

Why don’t I ever feel the love you give me?

I’m angry- at you, myself, and the world. Why does life have to be this way? I can’t hope for a better tomorrow or think of the future. I don’t want you to be disappointed by all the secrets I keep from you.

I’m scared I’ll do something I regret. I want to feel better.

~ Your son Luke

I wish I had written that letter, but I wrote a different one instead.

I attempted suicide.

By crashing our van into the first object I saw… a passing car.

Head on. At 60 mph. No seat belt. The van rolled.

I should have died. But I was unharmed. The other driver was injured but survived…

I am healing now. Life can be good again.

Because you are loved and able to love.

Your life is precious. You count.

You can’t be erased.

~ Luke D. Maxwell (www.ucantbeerased.com)

According to https://axis.org/ :  “The number of teens hospitalized for suicidal thoughts and actions has doubled over the last decade. Now, with shows like “13 Reasons Why”, the suicidal teenager has taken center stage in our culture.” [see Conversation Starter Kits on Axis website]

Suicide is a topic that leaves us speechless.

We feel powerless… confused… and perhaps shame in being reminded of our own fear of death or struggles with depression.

In so many ways we spend our lives in numbing activities as a means to escape reality… and especially the reality of death.

Suicide screams in our face, a reality that we can no longer ignore: Pain in this life is REAL and Death is REAL.

I want to suggest 3 topics that may be correlated to suicide and are rarely discussed and perhaps deserve more thought and attention.

(This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but a list of perhaps less-talked about areas.)

  • Suicide and Spiritual Warfare
  • Suicide and Sexual Abuse
  • Suicide and Passive Aggressive Anger.

Spiritual Warfare

Ray Comfort describes an encounter in his autobiographical book, “Out of the Comfort Zone:” .

“I had been preaching in the Square in New Zealand. Two girls approached me and said they wanted to talk about something spiritual. I asked if it was about demons. Surprised, they said that it was. One of the girls was having continual blackouts. For no apparent reason, she would black out at various times of the day. The blackouts became so frequent that the girls suspected something spiritual was involved… Besides the blackouts, she was having suicidal thoughts… [I] found her crawling on her hands and knees, groaning, screaming, and making animal-like noises… I commanded the spirit to manifest and name itself, so that i would know how to pray.

“No, no!” it screamed.

I persisted. It shrieked, “Hate, Hate!”

I named the spirit of hate and commanded it to leave. … Another spirit identified itself as “Suicide.”

I said, “Those are personalities- what is your name?”  “Soal,” it screamed.  “

“How long have you been in this person?” … “Twelve years.” …”How did you gain access?” …”Easily!

[I’d encourage you to read the rest of the account in the book!]

I believe that Evil is involved whenever there are thoughts or actions toward suicide. Scripture names Evil as the Liar and Accuser: “he is a liar and the father of lies” (John8:55). It may not be as dramatic as demon possession, but I believe Evil is always present in influence or suggestion to the person’s mind. The beliefs of shame, hopelessness, and worthlessness that cause a person such deep torment and pain that they desire to cause their own death are lies from Evil and Darkness itself.

He {Satan} was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth” (John 8:44)

“To put it in a word, Satan is blood-thirsty. Christ came into the world that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Satan comes that he might destroy life wherever he can and in the end make it eternally miserable.” ~ John Piper “Satan’s 10 Strategies”

Exit: The Appeal of Suicide

Recently Ray Comfort released a documentary, “Exit: The Appeal of Suicide” : {http://www.theexitmovie.com/}

In the documentary he demonstrates HOW to fight the spiritual battle against suicide: Fight Evil and Lies with Truth and Love.

Ray highlights a scene in the classic film Pilgrim’s Progress, in which “Despair” is a large menacing giant, who locks the main character (Christian) into “Doubting Castle.” As he’s sitting in the dungeon, Christian realizes he has the key in his own pocket! The “key” is the Promise of God: “For the wages of sin is Death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” ~ Romans 6:23

We were created for LIFE; each of us has a God-given will to live. Because of the conflict between our desire for life and the looming reality of death, we are a prisoner to the fear of death our whole lives (Hebrews 2:15). This fear leads to despair, and depression… a sense of futility… and hopelessness.

Therefore the solution is HOPE that is not a mere wish, but a true anchor to our souls. Faith that is founded on the truth of Jesus will result in “joy and peace in believing.” (Romans 15:13)

 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” ~ John 11:25

 

Sexual Abuse

The book, “Treating the Adult Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Psychoanalytic Perspective”, contains a table listing the symptoms of sexual abuse. A major category seen in both adolescents and adults is listed as: “Suicidal Ideation and Suicide Attempts.” (pg. 38)

The recent Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, highlights the involvement of sexual harm in leading character Hannah’s suicide.

In the documentary Exit: The Appeal of Suicide, one girl, when asked the reason for her depression and thoughts of suicide, answered, “I was raped…”

While it is difficult to contain in words the damage done to a life through sexual harm, Dr. Dan Allender has summarized it in this way (through his Wounded Heart conference material): there is the ruin of faith through betrayal, there is the stealing of hope through powerlessness, and the ruin of love through darkening the soil of desire. For the victim there is the echo of darkness in all pleasure, a hatred of joy, relief through self-contempt and other-centered contempt.

Clearly this is an area with many compounding factors. I’d encourage *everyone* to read “The Wounded Heart” and “Healing the Wounded Heart” by Dan Allender. (Especially everyone in a ministry leadership role, given the epidemic of sexual harm in our country, I think it’s irresponsible for ministry leaders to be unaware and uneducated in this area)

In “Healing the Wounded Heart”, Dr. Allender discusses “covert sexual abuse”, which broadens our general understanding of abuse to include more subtle, but yet still very damaging, forms: 1) verbal abuse: inappropriate sexual talking, solicitations, coarse jesting, sexual name calling; 2)psychological abuse– triangular relationships, use of a child as a surrogate spouse, over-dependency on a child, and inappropriate role expectations. These can all lead to an underlying sense of anger that a child doesn’t even know where it’s coming from, yet boils over into a desperate despondency and desire for self-harm, which brings us to the idea of “passive aggressive anger.”

Passive Aggressive Anger

Dr. Ross Campbell, M.D discusses passive aggressive anger at length in his book, “How to Really Love Your Angry Child.

Dr. Campbell writes:

“We can define PA behavior, but recognizing it is another matter entirely. Upon learning about this brand of behavior… there’s a tendency to label every act of childish misbehavior as passive-aggression, but that’s a mistake… we can begin for watching out for three distinctives:

1) irrational and illogical… driven by the subconscious mind where logic isn’t the prime mover. The subconscious is driven by feelings, impressions, and powerful emotions;

2) PA’s purpose is primarily to upset the parents or other authority figures;

3) Children ultimately hurt themselves the most by PA behavior… are their own greatest victims… serious kinds of PA behavior through drugs, alcohol… or even suicide, the ultimate passive-aggressive behavior.

In Dr. Campbell’s original book that covers more broad and basic topics, “How to really Love your Child,” he discusses the Scripture verse: “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger…” (Colossians 3:21) I see this as an indication that any time parents have an angry child on their hands, including a child with PA behavior, we need to first evaluate ourselves, and our parenting. Over and over again I come across parents that want to talk about “their child’s behavior issues” and yet it is so clear that often our “child’s issue” has it’s primary root in *our issues*.

We are each so naturally blind to our own issues, tragically unself-aware, predisposed to think of ourselves more highly then we ought (as Scripture points out!). This is why God has given us the “Body” of Christ, and the reason why we “grow together” into Christ= we need others to see in us what we are blind to.

We also need to grow in our understanding of ways that we as parents can unwittingly bring harm into our children’s hearts and lives. A broader definition of harm will include psychological means of harm: triangular relationships, use of a child as a surrogate spouse, over-dependency on a child and inappropriate role expectations. It will also include an understanding of attachment development for infants and the damage that is done through neglect: lack of eye contact, lack of touch, lack of delight toward the child or a parent having a “still face” which results in a lack of mirroring that an infant needs to develop a sense of self.

{Watch “The Still Face Experiment with Dr. Edward Tronick : https://youtu.be/apzXGEbZht0  }

I have several resource suggestions for parents who have a curiosity about themselves and their children, and desiring to learn! While you may not have children who are at risk of suicidal ideation, each our children WILL encounter struggles in life and their own journeys of brokenness, and of course as parents, we want to do all we can to increase their resilience and trajectory of wholeness. Below are some ideas!

1) Don’t try to do life alone! God designed us to *NEED* community. God didn’t design us to do life, marriage or parenting alone. We need the input of wise and responsible people in order to see areas of brokenness that we will never see on our own. We have made it our family culture from the very beginning that we involve Christian professionals in our lives (in terms of individual counseling, marriage counseling, and parenting). Please don’t make the mistake of sending your child off to counseling to deal with “his or her issues.” His/Her issues are FAMILY issues and the whole family needs growth and healing.

2) Two book suggestions: “How to Really Love Your Child” by Ross Campbell; and “How We Love Our Kids: The Five Love Styles of Parenting” by Milan Yerkovich (this one looks at insecure attachment styles of parents (Pleaser, Avoider, Vascillator, Controller and Victim) and how they affect children.

3) Look into a therapist who does “Theraplay.” The therapist will videotape your interactions with your child during a series of activities and then do an assessment in 4 areas: Nurture, Attunement, Challenge, and Structure. However unnerving and humbling this is, I promise, it will be worth reading 20 parenting books with what you will learn about yourself and your child!!

Conclusion

Spiritual, trauma, and anger issues may all weave together in a complex web for a person attempting suicide. We must take the time and effort to look at the whole and ask yourself, “What keeps me from exploring any one of the above areas on behalf of the person I love or on behalf of myself?”

 

 

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How it feels to spend three days in a teen psych ward. Guest post by Luke Maxwell

Click.

I half-opened my eyes to the sound of the heavy door opening, a faint light shining through. A diminutive figure shuffled into my room, slumped onto the only other bed, and sat in silence.

Blinking myself more awake, I whispered to the small boy who I guess was my new roommate, “Don’t be afraid, I’m cool.”

He didn’t say much, but instead made a vague sound of affirmation and lay down. I did the same and wondered how this turn would affect my stay in this dismal place.

I was woken up the next morning by a middle-aged woman opening the door and yelling that it was time to wake up. Pleasant. That’s when I got my real first look at the newcomer. He was just a kid. Heck, who I was to talk? I was barely 16 myself. But he was a real kid. Maybe 13 at most. He stayed silent, as if still in shock from whatever event brought him into this place. In him, I could almost see myself just a few years prior if I hadn’t survived for so long. But like all emotion I had felt for the past four years, I locked those feelings down and tried to proceed along my day as if he wasn’t even there. Loneliness was a curse, yes, but also a comfort to my broken mind.

Nobody said much as the rest of the kids filed out of their rooms and sat to an almost inedible microwaved breakfast. It was just another day in the facility. I almost caught myself laughing at the scene of us trying to eat this mess. We’d have to be crazy to be here. Oh right. Supposedly we are.

I was told to take a pill after breakfast, and after seeing there was no option, I took it. My sci-fi enthralled mind was waiting for a sudden change to come over me, but I was left disappointed. To go along with the pill, I was sent into a room of very professional looking people. You know. The kind of people you can tell have several letters after their name, letters that don’t include jr or sr. The asked me questions which I tried to answer as best as I could, but no matter how hard I tried to be honest, they never seemed to believe me.

After some “school”, exercise, and “lunch”, we were given some quiet time. Sounds nice, right? Well, when your mind is plagued with thoughts of recent events, not such a great idea. I could still taste the powder from the airbag mixing with the dirt and dust. I could feel the panic that set in as I made the decision that would forever change my life. I could see the disgust in the paramedics’ eyes as they tied me to a gurney. I stopped myself before I went down that road again. How about a book? Yeah, that’s much better.

But for some reason I’ve never understood, good things can never last. Right as I was finally gathering some peace in this massively uncomfortable place, a nurse popped her head in and informed me and my silent roommate that it was visiting time…and that my parents were here.

Oh no.

I had no idea what was about to happen. We’ve barely spoken since…it happened. Every shred of peace I had was gone. Shaking and trying to control my breathing, I stepped out of my room to see them sitting at a table on the opposite end of the room. My body and my surroundings felt trapped in slow motion while my mind raced uncontrollably. Guilt and fear flooded my emotions, adding to the chaos of my thoughts. I somehow made my way over to them, and will never forget what they said to me. They told me that they now knew that I was suffering from a disease called Major Depressive Disorder. That they loved me and were there to help me get better. This was not at all what I was expecting. Though, to be honest, I didn’t know what I actually expected. My world was spinning in a tornado of emotion and new information, and I had no idea how to absorb it. When our time was up, they handed me some cards that my siblings had written for me and left with an awkward hug. After the brief interaction, I barely remember what just happened. I had so many emotions, yet so little feelings rushing through me. I was experiencing an overload of senses, yet was completely numb. Only a broken mind, could possible create a situation like this.

One more attempt at a meal and day one was over. Only two more days left to go. But something had now changed. I wasn’t just doing stuff to survive, I now had a goal. Somewhere to be. I now saw that I was sick, and I didn’t want to be sick anymore.

Day two passed mostly like day one had. Eat disgusting food, take a pill, answer strangers’ questions, do some stuff that I believe they thought was school, eat more “food”, exercise, quiet time, parents visit, and dinner. Just another normal day. Haha. Normal. That’s funny. But something interrupted the routine that day. It was right after lunch. One of the boys (let’s call him Mike) was super annoying. This kid obviously had issues unlike the rest of us who were trying to maintain our cool and pretend we weren’t in a psych ward. They let us watch TV after lunch, and we were sitting quietly when we heard yelling behind us. If you’ve never been in a place that’s essentially a prison for teens with severe psychiatric disorders, trust me when I say yelling and conflict do not go over very well.

We all turn around to see Mike arguing with a nurse about probably nothing, and he was not backing down. Immediately we’re forced into our rooms while they deal with this. Oh, and you should know something about me. I hate conflict. Just writing about this half-an-hour long confrontation gives me anxiety. Next thing you know, I hear a thump on the wall followed by what could only be Mike punching the wall over and over again. Alarms are ringing, people are yelling, but finally it all goes silent. I gave a small look at my shaking roommate. He was not doing well.

Finally, our door cracked open, and we were told to come out. To this day, I don’t know what set him off or how they calmed him down. But at the moment, that wasn’t my concern, I wanted to get out of there even more so now. When we finally saw Mike again sometimes later, he played it off like he was a bad boy who just got in trouble. Looking back, I can see how much pain he was in, and I wish I had the compassion that I have now.

I had made it through the second day. Finally. Dinner was over and everyone had left the table except for me and a young nurse who was sitting just a few feet from me. She looked at me is if confused, visibly thought for a few seconds, then leaned closer to me and asked me something that changed the course of my life.

“What’s a good kid like you doing in a place like this?”

I was shocked. I had thought of myself in any way positive in more than four straight years of crippling depression and definitely not attached the adjective “good” to myself or anything I did.

I mumbled some kind of answer along the lines of “I just made a bad decision”, but that question still follows me around. The fact that someone I didn’t know looked at me and told me I was good was unbelievable. I thought everyone hated me. I thought I was a burden who wouldn’t amount to anything. I wasn’t able to focus on the movie or anything else for the rest of the night. The next day was spent seemingly out of my body, not really focused on what was going on around me. I saw the sadness and pain in each of the children around me. We were just kids. Children in horrible circumstances. My roommate was 13 years old. I couldn’t stop thinking about why each of the others were in here, what they had gone through to have this extreme measure of imprisonment taken, and if something could have been done to prevent this.

I was informed that I’d be released the next morning since my three days of assessment were up. They had concluded that I was no longer a threat to myself or anyone else, but they mandated medication and regular therapy appointments.

My parents stood in the hallway that morning and without hesitation, I gave them a hug, collecting my things, and walked out with them. I said one final goodbye to my peers who had known so briefly, but had such a profound impact on me. I was taken immediately to a therapist my parents had found, and as I shook his hand and settled into the couch. I began to share my story.

“I’m Luke, and on December 3rd, 2012, after four years of suffering from undiagnosed major depression, I attempted suicide by driving a 12-seater van at 60 mph head-on into an oncoming vehicle. I want to feel better, and I want to help my peers who are suffering like I am.”

My therapist smiled understandingly and replied, “Luke, I’m so glad you’re still here.”

 

More about Luke:

Hi, I’m Luke! …and when I was little, I wanted more than anything to be an astronaut. Now, I’ve left such childish dreams behind…for much bigger ones. After suffering from undiagnosed Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) for four years as a teen, I survived a serious suicide attempt (watch my story video for more details). Once I was told I was suffering from a medical disease that I could overcome and that more than 1 in 4 of my peers were suffering like I was, I made it my mission to heal not only myself, but support others along the way. And so on September 7th, 2013, with the simple tagline of “Unashamed. (Period)”, U Can’t B Erased was born.

Check out his website here!  https://www.ucantberased.com/

A video of Luke sharing his story on You Tube: https://youtu.be/yM3ayaNaehs