Is my husband suicidal?

Q. My husband has been battling depression for about a year. Although he’s on medication it doesn’t seem to be helping him much. Sometimes he says he just wishes it was over and he could die and go to heaven. Is he suicidal? Anne in KS

A. If someone talks about death, it is important to encourage them to tell their doctor or counselor. If they refuse, you call their doctor to inform him or her of your loved one’s thoughts. This is too important an issue and the stakes too high to worry about how he will take it.

That said, just talking about wanting to die doesn’t necessarily indicate that someone is suicidal. There are times when we are overwhelmed with life’s stresses or life’s struggles that we despair of life. Elijah did, Jeremiah did, David did and even the apostle Paul did. But I don’t believe any of these men of God were suicidal. During these times we need to be extra sensitive to someone’s despair because feeling this awful is very, very difficult.

Imagine you had the flu. When we have a bad case, sometimes we even say we wish we were dead, but we don’t really mean it. Why not? Because we know that in a few days we’ll be feeling better. However, in the case of unresponsive depression, you feel awful but you’re not sure you’ll ever feel better. That makes it hard to imagine a future with any hope.

When someone talks about being depressed, it’s always important to look for the hope factor. When they lose hope that they will ever get better, do they have hope that God is using it for a purpose? Do they have hope that God is still good and in control? If so, that is good. It is when someone loses all hope then they are most vulnerable to thoughts of suicide. Below are some things you should talk to your husband about to be more certain.

When talking with your husband and he says he wants to die, ask him if he has any suicidal thoughts? If he answers yes, then ask him what keeps him from doing it? He might answer that he doesn’t want to go to hell, or to disappoint God, or to hurt his children or you, or even to fail and have to live as a paraplegic or with some other consequence of his failed attempt. These are good deterrents and you can remind him of them in his struggle against his suicidal thoughts. I firmly believe that Satan’s goal is to destroy us and he is behind suicidal ideology. There is a spiritual battle here as well as a mental, emotional and physical one.

In addition, when someone you know has suicidal thoughts, you might also check out if they have ideas of how they would kill themselves. In other words, do they have a plan and do they have the means of carrying out that plan? Ask him or her, “When you have those thoughts, do you think of how you would do it?” If he or she says, “I have no idea,” then there is a lower risk. However, if she says “I would put a gun to my mouth, or take all the pills in the medicine cabinet,” then the risk is much higher,

When a person despairs of life, loses hope that things will get better and loses any reason not to do it, they are most at risk. Please don’t hesitate to call your local Crisis Intervention (that number can usually be found in the blue pages at the front of your phone book), your pastor, your family doctor or other professionals that will be able to help you help your loved one. Here are some addition resources.

Suicide Hotline 800 784-2433 24 hour hotline
Suicide Prevention 800 827-7571 24 hour hotline
National Suicide Hotline 888 248-2587 24 hour hotline
New Hope: or 714 639-4673 Provides live or online Christian support with trained volunteers
American Suicide Foundation 800 531-4477 Provides support for family members of suicide victims

Suicide is a decision that is irreversible. Those who I have worked with who have thought of suicide but didn’t do it, or even had a failed attempt, realize later on that life can be good and they are very happy to be alive. Those who succeed at suicide, never have that second chance.

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