Mormon Messages

Sitting on the Bench: Thoughts on Suicide Prevention

6:59
Description

Suicidal thoughts are real and often begin when a person feels like the world would be better off without them. Sometimes, the most powerful tool to help someone is to simply reach out with friendship and words of love and encouragement.

Each of us can play an important role in preventing suicide. If you're worried about someone you know, want to understand warning signs to look out for, or just need help knowing how to be a friend and to listen and share thoughts in a nonjudgemental way, you'll find helpful resources at preventingsuicide.lds.org.

For more on what Church leaders have said about suicide, and for helpful scripture references, visit this Gospel Topics page.

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Transcript

    If there are any who are thinking about giving up on the challenge of life, my message is, every human soul is precious. My name is Nate Olsen. My dad is an artist, and he does a lot of Christian artwork. And so he had an idea for a painting called Lost and Found. And in that painting, there's Jesus sitting on a park bench with a teenager. But my dad chose my best friend, Dan, to be the model for that painting. Ever since ninth
    grade, I knew that he had struggles with depression. It was about 10 years after the painting was completed and released that Dan ended up taking his life. I think that I felt the full spectrum of emotions. At first there was sort of that shock, not knowing it's real, and then when it really hits you that your friend is gone, you're not going to be able to see him and talk to him again. I was upset that now I had to live with a lot of questions and wondering, what role did I play in this, and what could I have done better? I wish he would've given me an opportunity to sit on the bench with him and talk to him and to give me an opportunity to show him why I love him and why I need him and why I want him to be around for 50 years.

    The most common sources of pain for a person who's having suicidal thoughts include feeling disconnected from others, feeling alienated from others, or feeling that relationships have never materialized. The other common source of pain is feeling like a burden to others, that "people would be better off without me." When those are combined with hopelessness, that "this is not going to change," that is where suicidal thoughts become risky.

    So my name is Seth Adam Smith. I'm a writer and a blogger. I had struggled with depression all throughout my life. I never really recognized it for what it was, but around the time I was 20, my depression sort of collapsed on me and I felt like I was drowning. It got so severe that I didn't know how to escape it. I would close in on myself. I spent a lot of time alone and pushed people out of my life. I didn't know how to explain what was happening to me. And when you're in that, when you're in the thick of it, it really just feels like you're the only one. Everything just came to a head one day. I looked at my life and I realized everything was just broken. I couldn't fix anything. I couldn't control anything. I just felt like all of my life just spun out of control. I went to work. I clocked in for about 40 minutes. My brother, Sean, was one of my supervisors. I left my cell phone there and left the office. I went home. I took a bottle of sleeping pills and half a bottle of painkillers. And then I went into the garage and crawled inside the car there, and I turned on the engine. I would have died had my dad not received a phone call from my brother, Sean, and felt like he needed to come and find me. Waking up in the hospital was agony. And then they took me home, and I remember my brother, Sean, put his arm around me and walked me into my room and laid me down on my bed. I remember waking up several hours later, and Sean was still sitting there on the bed. And I thought, "Maybe he's here because he thinks I'm going to try to take my life again or something." And I said, "Sean, I'm all right. I just need to be alone right now." I said, "You can go." And he was really quiet. He said, "You know, Seth, I almost lost my little brother, so I don't think I'm going to go anywhere for a little while. I'm just going to sit here with you for a bit." I think that was the first
    time that I recognized that there was a world outside of myself. I started to see that there were people outside of my own life that actually cared about me and that loved me and wanted to see me succeed and live and contribute to their lives, and I hadn't been seeing that before.

    I realized he was going to get all that talking with my parents, with therapists, and I realized he probably just needed someone just to hang out with. I took work off for a week, and we just sat and watched movies and played games and talked about girls. And if he wanted to talk about it, he could talk about it.

    My family, they're not doctors; they're not counselors. They're accountants. And I'm sure that they felt overwhelmed, like, "We're not qualified to talk about this. We don't know what to say and what to do." But the mere fact that they reached out to me in love--that is what did it. Sometimes just sharing the load, being someone to sit with you. My brother, Sean, hardly said a word. He didn't know what to say, but what he did--what my brother did is what changed my life.

    There is nothing more powerful than the arm of love that can be put around those who are struggling. That doesn't mean that you're going to be able to heal people. But saying, "You know, you need a little help"--I think we can have an impact in guiding people to some of the resources that are available that they may have no idea exist. I say we keep our antennas up, we watch out for each other, we love one another, and we leave the judgments, the
    eternal judgments, to our Heavenly Father and to the Lord Jesus Christ, who know all things.