Suicide is among the most common causes of death in the United States, especially among young people who are 15 to 24. More people die by suicide than by homicide every year and millions have suicidal thoughts. Behind such troubling statistics are people: real individuals whose stories and relationships are unique and who live in our families, congregations, neighborhoods and work places.
Mindful of both the size of the problem and the lives affected, the ELCA Church Council adopted “Suicide Prevention” in 1999 as a call to members, congregations and affiliated institutions to learn more about suicide and its prevention in their communities, to ask what they can do and to work with others to prevent suicide. The social message was updated in 2021 with contemporary statistics, phrasing, and resource information.
The message affirms that life is God’s good and precious gift, but explains that suicide testifies to the tragic brokenness of living that some experience as a torment without hope. The message beckons God’s people to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) when it is easier to ignore, reject or shy away from those who despair of life. It proclaims that God's boundless love in Jesus Christ will leave no one alone and abandoned. It offers suggestions for pastoral care when suicide does occur while emphasizing means for prevention through becoming aware and challenging false attitudes about suicide. The message has a practical bent in offering specific information about receiving and giving care, even providing lists of resources and organizations dedicated to providing support. While some of the information is now dated, the message remains completely relevant in providing a comprehensive message about suicide and a clear call for concerted and collaborative efforts from all sectors of society and the church to prevent suicide.
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