I have been very heavy-hearted the last several days since I heard the news about Pastor and author Rick Warren’s son’s suicide. I found it rather interesting that this should happen in the midst of my series on mental illness. In case you do not know who Rick Warren is, he is the pastor of a large, non-denominational church in California called, Saddleback. Pastors and church leaders go there from all over the country to learn how to have more impactful ministries. Rick Warren and his church are also responsible for producing the Christian equivalent to AA, Celebrate Recovery. He also wrote a best-selling book my husband and I both love, The Purpose Driven Life. If you haven’t read it, you should. It’s life-changing.
This is a spiritually strong, stable, emotionally healthy Christian family whose son struggled with mental illness most of his life. It was not because of anything they did. It didn’t have anything to do with their parenting. We live in a fallen world where bad things happen to good people. Life is not perfect. Our children will not be perfect. No family is immune from this possibility. It could happen to anyone. Some families will have a child with mental illness. Sometimes the struggle will never end. And sometimes it will end the way you never expected.
The Warren’s son was only 27. He suffered from depression, an unrelenting darkness from early childhood even though they took him to some of the top specialists in the country. He had been on medication. He was a Christian. He was doing everything a person could do to overcome this problem, but, he had a moment of dark despair so black and all-consuming he couldn’t overcome it. He just couldn’t fight it anymore.
Are you the mom or dad of a child who is struggling with depression? Are you tormented not knowing if your child is safe – from themselves? Do you have an uneasy feeling that something is wrong but can’t put your finger on it? Do you worry they feel worthless and their life doesn’t matter? If so, this is for you. This information could be crucial for you and your child.
This blog is one I did not too long ago. I am re-posting it in light of this recent tragedy because this is so greatly needed. This information is from The National Suicide Prevention Hotline website. The following signs may mean someone is at risk for suicide. The risk of suicide is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If your child exhibits any of these signs, seek help as soon as possible by calling the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves. Pay attention to this. Don’t ignore it. You never know when this is a genuine plea for help.
- Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, hiding pills, obtaining a weapon or the key to your gun case (if you have guns in your home always keep them in a locked place).
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
- Talking about being a burden to others. Repeatedly apologizing for this.
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs. (parents may only see hints of this)
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
- Displaying extreme mood swings.
A parent I know would add several additional warning signs to this list from their personal experience:
– A sudden, unexplainable change in typical behavior.
– Undecorating their bedroom – taking down favorite posters or pictures for no real reason.
– Giving away personal belongings – especially if it’s something you know is special to them.
– Being more loving to friends or family members than usual – out of character for them. A little too nice to a sibling they always fight with.
If you have nagging doubts call a counselor immediately. If you don’t know of one to call then call the toll-free number listed above. At least you can talk with someone who is knowledgeable on this subject who can help you determine your next step. Don’t delay. You don’t want to have any regrets. The worst thing that could happen is that you were wrong and your child will be mad at you. It won’t be the first time, or the last, right?
Taking action calls for courageous love. You have to be willing to be the enemy for now. One day they may understand – they will probably forgive you when they feel better. But if not, you can be strong. You can take it, because your love is big enough and because you’re willing to do anything necessary to save your child. Who knows? One day they may even thank you.
Sadly, when a suicide occurs, family members and closest friends often say they never saw it coming. They were completely blind-sided. It is my prayer that with this information this won’t happen to you. You can be proactive. At least you will have no regrets.
Be encouraged by this Scripture verse: “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God!” (Proverbs 3:56-6 The Message)
An excellent book on understanding suicide by a woman who has struggled with this herself is: Night Falls Fast by Kay Redfield Jamison.
A few others that are very good are: Grieving a Suicide by Albert Y. Hsu, A Loved One’s Search for Comfort, Answers, and Hope; Suicide of a Child by Adina Wrobleski, Healing After the Suicide of a Loved One by Ann Smolin and John Guinan, and Recovering From Losses in Life by H. Norman Wright.
For more good information on depression, see my blog posted on March 19th, 2013 titled: Helpful Information for Parents on Mental Illness -Part 1, Depression.