Behavioral health researchers say suicide is a "rare event" because only about 10 in 100,000 people in the U.S. annually end their lives. In the ELCA (membership of 4 million), approximately 400 members complete suicide each year. What then shall we do?
If you have lost a loved one to suicide, this isn't a rare event. It's a dominant event — now and for the rest of your life. Do you acknowledge the death as suicide? Do you call it something else and become a slave to that fiction? Does the stigma overcome you? Or does the truth set you free? How should the life of the deceased be remembered in memorial gifts? How do we honor that person, a gift from God, and the way he/she lived? What then shall we do?
We've learned that most people never get over the suicide death of a loved one. At best, they are able to integrate the event into their lives. They make a conscious choice of how they will deal with it. Many work hard at putting it behind them and moving on. But the memory of suicide is always just below the surface. Some choose "involvement therapy" and become actively involved in suicide prevention work. The current tragedy of high suicide rates among our military forces/veterans cries for much more involvement of God's people in suicide prevention. What then shall we do?
1. On Nov. 14, 1999, the ELCA Church Council adopted "A Message on Suicide Prevention," which established a policy on suicide prevention . Shortly thereafter, the ELCA Suicide Prevention Endowment Fund was chartered. This provides the means to make a memorial gift to honor a loved one and help build the future economic means for the ELCA to engage in suicide prevention work.
2. On March 12-13, 2008, the U.S. government convened a national Interfaith Suicide Prevention Dialogue to promote involvement by faith communities in suicide prevention.
3. In June 2009 four ELCA synod assemblies approved a memorial to promote and advance suicide prevention. This memorial asks the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, meeting this week, to create a volunteer suicide prevention ministry task force.
What then shall we, as individual Lutherans, do to help prevent suicide? We can:
1. Pray for those touched by suicidal behavior, mental health issues and addictive diseases.
2. Actively support, care for and love those touched by suicide.
3. Speak openly about suicide and mental health to fight the stigma.
4. Support an ELCA suicide prevention volunteer ministry.
5. Promote memorial gifts to the ELCA Suicide Prevention Endowment Fund.
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Editor Daniel J. Lehmann (right) is blogging from the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
From his first post: "For more than one and a half hours, the body debated a number of bids to require a two-thirds vote to change rules governing those allowed to be pastors, associates in ministry and deaconessses."
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