Suicide: Understanding the Causes and Coping

Suicide preventionIn the mid-1990s, while teaching middle schoolers, we received news from a late arriving student that one of the 8th graders was hit by a car on his way to school less than ½ mile from the school. The mother dropping off the late arriving student was understandably distraught but not at what had happened or what she had seen but the look on the face of the student that died. They were two cars behind him when it happened and from everything she could tell, the young man intentionally drove his bike into oncoming traffic. During those moments as she relayed to us the events of just moments before, you could tell she was confused over how or why he would do something like that. “What could be so bad that driving into oncoming traffic would be an option”, she pondered out loud. A few days later, the police report came in and the principal was made aware of its content. Indeed, they had determined that the child intentionally rode his bike into oncoming traffic.

The kids were beside themselves and the young man’s seat remained empty the rest of the year. We had several prayer meetings, Bible studies, and counseling options regarding the tragedy. Everything we adults said just seemed empty and without solution. Each child communicated at some point and asked if it was possible that it was something they did or did not do that caused the young man to make such a decision. These and many more represent the tough questions that arise when someone decides to take their own life. For this young man, his parents were going through a divorce and although not the entirety of the issue, it did not help his decision in positive ways.

One thing I have noticed as a Chaplain in the Army and having performed too many funerals for soldiers who have taken their life, it appears to be well over 90% relational. Now this observation is not to place blame or point fingers. Relationships works only in multiples. Unfortunately, they fail or cease in division. We are relational beings. Not only do we have a need of Water, Food, Shelter, and Safety but we also need Love, Touch, Understanding and Mercy. These last four are more often than not perception based.

The individual who makes a permanent decision in light of temporary situation, somehow perceives the situation or relationship to be at permanent ruin or end. However, few things are more final than death. Another factor is self-medication. Especially with soldiers and again more times than not, the soldier has been drinking alcohol, taking illegal drugs, or abusing prescription drugs. Most of the time, these efforts are made to self-medicate the problem. The only problem with this reason (other than it is limited) is the person who commits suicide thinks they are the problem. You all have heard me say before, the problem is the problem not the person. Are we lost and in need of a savior, sure. But that does not make us the problem. The bigger problem is our capacity for sin and because we have an incredible ability to do wrong and do so constantly without remorse, we need someone who is capable of taking away our sins even though we deserve otherwise. It appears at first contradictory but what God could create in His own image and then not have mercy on His creation. Only a false god, one with no real power, one made up by mankind, or fabricated from some material object. God the Father, on the other hand, made a way where there seemed to be no way and this is true for survivors of family members who commit suicide. God has made a way for you to be drawn closer to Him so that you choose life and not death. God is the God of the living not the dead. As such, He has made specific provision for all who believe, namely Jesus Christ.

Mindy McCready FuneralMany of us will never know nor understand the island of isolation of those who choose to end their life. We won’t know, feel, or even grasp the level of pain they personally experience. But I can tell you, that island they are on is very small and its resources are limited to one person. The key for us as survivors and family members of those who commit suicide is to not become the next tenant on that small island. We may feel that in order to understand why our loved one did what they did or made the decisions they made, that we somehow need to go to the places and do what they did in order to figure things out. I want you to hear me but hear me with love and not condemnation, stay away from that island. It is an island of death and not life. It is a place of hopelessness and not redemption or healing.

The best method of living through other people’s decisions and habits in life is to surround yourself with people who will help you grow an island of life. One of Love, joy, faith, hope, peace, mercy, forgiveness and understanding. Life is short enough as it is to be stuck on an island of death and albeit and island we have made ourselves. People who choose life understand that being human means allowing yourself to be vulnerable and susceptible to hurts and loss but also encouragement, and meaning.

In speaking with hundreds of survivors and family members of those who have committed suicide, the one constant has been a question: “What is the purpose of life”. Like Rick Warren, I agree, God has a purpose for each one of our lives. For those struggling to make sense of life through loss right now, Rick Warren’s book “A Purpose Driven Life” is one I would recommend. It is even more poignant today knowing that Rick’s own son committed suicide. The final key is knowing and being able to reach out to others who have had similar experiences. Which brings us full circle, we are relational beings, vulnerable, weak and in need of a savior. Won’t you trust God today and reach out to those who can be with you on your island of life? Won’t you choose life? God chose life by raising His son from the dead so that this final enemy would be defeated and all of us would have the hope of eternal life. When we choose life, we are practicing for eternity!

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19

Mijikai Mason
Disclaimer: The thoughts and views published on the Veterans to Christ blog are those of Mijikai Mason and in no way are meant to represent the United States Army or the Armed Forces.

Bio: Mijikai Mason is an Ordained Southern Baptist minister and Chaplain in the United States Army. He has been in the Army for 26 years both as an enlisted Soldier and now as an Officer. He has been stationed at various bases in the United States and in United States Army Garrison Schweinfurt, Germany. He holds an undergraduate degree in Religion from the University of Mobile, a Master of Divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in Theology and Evangelism and a Master of Arts degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Webster University. Chaplain (MAJ) Mijikai Mason was selected by the Army in 2013, to become a Family Life Chaplain and began his service in this field starting 15 May 2015. He is the Deputy ESC Chaplain and Family Life Chaplain for the 593 Expeditionary Support Command at Joint Base Lewis McCord. He has deployed four times: Desert Storm (1991), Iraq twice (2005-2006; 2007-2008), and Afghanistan (2012-2013). He has a total of 42 months deployed in combat and logistics operations. Mijikai and his wife, Ashley, have been married for 17 years this May and live near Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington with their four daughters.