Suicide: A Tragedy or A Crime?

Article by Rev. Rheuben Mbiku

Suicide is the act of intentionally taking away one’s life or intentionally causing one’s death.

To begin with, we need to understand that one does not own his or her life. Life belongs to God and it is contained in one’s body for the purposes of service to humanity, and basically, service to humanity is service to God. So from the biblical point of view, suicide is wrong because it is disobeying God’s command that, “Thou shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13).

The Bible cannot expressly criminalize suicide because it talks in the language of sin and not a crime. However, it gives governmental authorities the power to choose what to criminalize and what to legalize. In 1 Peter 2:13-14 the Bible says. “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority….,” and Romans 13:1 says, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”

It is very necessary and therefore just to criminalize suicide. As seen earlier, a human being was created by God and for a purpose. When a person takes their own life, they deny themselves the right to life and they also deny other people services or certain ministries that were to be carried on by the suicide victim, and that saddens God. For example, if a married man who has children commits suicide, he robs the wife for the services of a husband making her a widow. He also robs his children of the privileges of having a father and the services there-of. There are many other examples that point to the fact that, if there was a way to totally eliminate suicide, it would be the most prudent thing to do. But since it is not possible, the most convenient way to suppress it so as to minimize its occurrence and effects is to criminalize it. 

That justifies the criminalization of suicide.

How do we help these people?

(The assumption here is that we are talking about helping people who want to commit suicide).

There are key things that anyone who wants to help a potential suicide victim needs to understand.

Firstly, it is important to understand that people commit suicide for different reasons. Whatever the reason, we need to understand that when one is considering committing suicide, the underlying fact is that they have lost hope in life and living becomes meaningless to them.

Secondly, we need to understand that as long as one has lost hope in life, anybody can commit suicide. Professionals, laypeople, adults, children, Christians, Muslims, high-profiled leaders, and even religious leaders, any of these can commit suicide.

For us to effectively help someone with thoughts of committing suicide, we need to be aware of the signs pointing to that fact. Some of the signs show that;

  • They may extremely withdraw or isolate themselves from other people.
  • They may start or keep talking in a way that hints that they want to die. For example, “What is the benefit or point of living?” “I am tired of this life,” “Soon I will stop bothering you” and such like talks.
  • They may start giving away things that are of great value to them.
  • They may start behaving in alternating moods like from being depressed to being very happy for no apparent reason.
  • They may start neglecting themselves and start developing a ‘don’t care’ attitude in different ways like not combing their hair, not brushing their teeth, or even not washing their clothes.

It is however important to note that not everybody considering suicide will develop any of these signs. Some will not show a single sign suggesting suicide. However, if you observe keenly you may notice a change in attitude.

How to help a person considering committing suicide:

A person thinking of committing suicide may be experiencing severe grief, trauma, or depression. So they need someone to give them attention. We can do the following for them;

  • Be with them and if it is possible do not leave them alone.
  • Listen to them if they are willing to talk. If it is possible prompt them to talk by hint-talking about the things they like and when they start talking, give them time to talk as you listen.
  • Wisely talk to them about suicide. Find out why they wanted to commit suicide and if they had made the plan and how prepared they were. Ask them if they had considered how the suicide would have affected others.
  • Take away from them any items they would use to commit suicide. These are things like drugs, chemical, ropes, sharp objects like knives, glass objects, and so on.
  • Ask them questions that will help them to express their feelings.
  • Help them to find ways of releasing their pain, grief, anger, and such. If they break into tears, let them cry because it is one way of getting relief.
  • Try to find out what made them not to commit suicide. This will be helpful because it can help you build hope for them along those lines.
  • Find out if they had tried to overcome their problems and try to help them figure out on how else they can try to overcome.
  • Let them know with assurance that there have been other people who passed through similar situations and they managed to overcome. Let them know that there is a way out of one’s situation other than death. Let them know that they can make it in life.
  • Upon assessing the situation, get the person a Professional counselor if need be.
  • As the situation may dictate, sometimes it may need a medical attention and especially when one is experiencing a depression, medication for depression may help a lot.
  • Help them to connect with other people and friends because this will help them share their story. The company and support of friends and other loved ones, and the sharing provides a relief for them.
  • Pray for and with them. Try hard not to preach to them when they are down but wisely encourage them with the knowledge of the word of God, even as you listen to them.

To minimize issues of suicide, it is important to create social suicide awareness. This can be done in the churches, in schools and in local social places, and it will be most effective if all life stakeholders get involved with a room to involve each other collectively.

SOURCERev. Rheuben Mbiku is a pastor at Outreach Community Church
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