What do these teens have in common?
a Mount Anthony Union Middle School student
These teens have all committed suicide recently, and most of them (if not all) took their life due to being bullied by their peers. These young lives can be added to the thousands of other teens who have committed suicide over the years, for various reasons and in various ways. However, the issue of bullying is a commonality in the majority of cases, especially those in recent years.
Suicide is the third largest cause of death among 15-24 year-olds.
Tragically, tomorrow, next month, and next year, more names will be added to grave stones. More families will be left picking up the pieces to their shattered lives. More questions will be asked; more doubt in faith will spring up; more anger at God will be experienced with great pain.
As youth workers, will we be standing in a posture of being proactive or reactive when suicide strikes our ministry, community, or even our families? Yes, no matter how prepared one is, suicide still knocks us off our feet in disbelief. However, it is my firm belief that this blow lessens by the steps we take in educating ourselves and others about the warning signs and preventions of suicide. Like so many other things in today’s environment, it is no longer a question of “if” suicide will strike our lives but one of “when.” We need to be prepared on all fronts, and one way of doing so is planting the gospel firmly within our students hearts, minds, and souls.
By the word “gospel,” I’m not talking about one particular fraction but the whole reality of the gospel, found in the Person of Jesus Christ. He is the firm definition of hope, freedom, life, pursuit, longing, et al, which are the very things teens are strenuously looking for today. Therefore, it is my conviction, that in order to combat the root issues of suicide and bullying, we need to go with our students beyond the surface of “Jesus loves you,” and into the depths of our identity and worth found in Christ alone. Although as youth workers we may realize this, I’m not convinced that today’s teenager believe this deep within. And maybe they don’t believe this because we don’t believe this ourselves. Or maybe we do believe this, but we wrongly assume our students do as well.
In either case, students are killing themselves, because in their minds, death is the only viable answer left to pursue. And this, we know, is a lie. So, what other answers are we providing for our students and their friends?
Here are 6 answers I strive to teach students every chance I get:
- You are made in the image of God, and nothing changes this.
- God’s unconditional love for you is greater than any sin you will commit (and have committed).
- Our identity and worth are wrapped around who Christ is, what He has done, and what He will do within our lives.
- We are a redeemed community, sent to live out the gospel in authentic community with others.
- We all stand upon the common ground of needing Jesus.
- The love of Jesus is greater than the lie of suicide, and the threat of being bullied.