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"... underneath are the everlasting arms." Deuteronomy 33.27

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. It's a sobering thought that we need such an event. But it remains the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK and the second biggest for all 15-29 year-olds worldwide. Rumours that the Covid 19 pandemic has pushed rates up by 200% are unsubstantiated, yet experts believe that a mental health crisis is brewing and so we cannot be complacent.

What causes people to take their own lives spans a range of reasons, rendering it a complex phenomenon, made even more so by the shame and notoriety. Persecuted minorities, including those facing discrimination on account of sexual and identity issues, are particularly vulnerable. So, how to address the issue?

The World Health Organisation suggests a variety of interventions, from removing the most popular means of suicide to being alert to its symptoms, allowing for early intervention. Is it glib to say that a person is driven to suicide when life becomes so hopeless that death is a more attractive prospect?

If that is the case then, to prevent it, one must either reduce the attractiveness of death or raise the hopefulness of life. But then there is also the chemical factor, which has established that at least some suicides are the result of mental illness. Medication may help, or it can make matters worse. So there isn't a "one cure fits all" out there.

Even Christians are not immune. We know it is a sin to kill and we know that life is a gift. But these convictions do not shield us from our vulnerability, whether that is due to mental illness or moral weakness. But what we also know is that God loves us, God is with us and that God understands and he cares.

And we who claim to be his disciples must do the same. The tragedy that is suicide calls for mercy and not judgment. And to be in a position to offer that requires that we are available, both in terms of our presence and our willingness to listen. May God protect his people from despair, increase our hopefulness and equip us to be a life-line for those who need it...

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