Individuals who struggle with suicidal thoughts experience a great deal of suffering and inner turmoil. Their struggle tends to be a quiet one and rarely do they give others entry into their thoughts. As a result, this struggle can easily go unnoticed by others. But suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. It ranks higher than diabetes, and even homicide. This makes it critically important for counselors and those in pastoral ministry to do two things: first, to know how to assess someone’s suicidality; and second, to know how to move toward the person wisely and lovingly.
But how do you do those two things? When and how do you increase the circle of care when risk factors are present? How do you begin to help a person who desires death? How do you wisely enter the person’s life and walk alongside through the intense suffering?
In his talk entitled, Assessing and Counseling a Person with Suicidal Thoughts, Aaron Sironi addresses these questions and provides direction about how to approach the person.
In counseling we don’t care well for a person until we are able to see his struggles and pain clearly enough to articulate it. This person is in great distress and our first movement toward him is to take his distress seriously. As we understand his experience well enough to articulate it, we will then have the chance to make sense of his world. You are not simply giving him a reason to live. Your goal is to help him reinterpret his struggle and his suffering, in light of who God is, until he sees and grasps real hope, and real reasons for patience, perseverance, faithfulness, and repentance.