LDS Church leaders speak about suicide awareness in new videos

Friday , July 06, 2018 - 5:35 PM

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a number of videos aimed at understanding suicide Monday.

The church released a total of eight videos, which included comments from Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Sister Carol F. McConkie, who served as the first counselor in the Young Women’s general presidency from April 2013 to April 2018.

The videos featuring Renlund and McConkie — six total — were between 1 minute, 42 seconds and 2 minutes, 24 seconds in length.

REACHING OUT TO HELP

Renlund said “it’s completely safe … to ask someone if they’re having suicidal thoughts or if they’re having thoughts of harming themselves.”

Listening is key, Renlund said.

“… If you genuinely love the person, then you’re willing to sit there with them and you’re willing to cry with them, and you’re willing to hold them, and you do that in concert with health care professionals and with ecclesiastical leaders, with friends and family support.

“In most cases, people continue to have a burden, but the burden can be made lighter, and as that happens, joy can fill their soul again.”

McConkie said knowing who is struggling with suicidal thoughts “involves developing an awareness of one another.”

“In other words, put down the phone and look and see who needs your help,” McConkie said.

McConkie said that even though an admission of suicidal thoughts can be surprising to the person who hears it, it’s important to seek spiritual guidance in that situation.

“It’s shocking, and in that moment you don’t know what to say, and yet at that same time you’ve got to pull yourself together and seek the spirit of the Lord to guide you, to help you feel what he would say, to help you be able to express love for that person and the assurance that you are there for them, that you will stand by them, and that you’re not going anywhere until they find help — the professional help, the counseling that they need,” McConkie said.

AFTER A SUICIDE

McConkie shared that her sister’s 14-year-old granddaughter died by suicide. She called the loss “so much more painful than anything I can probably describe.”

“When someone close to you takes their own life, it’s hard to even describe this extraordinary sense of loss and a rather unique grief,” McConkie said. “It seems intensified probably because a certain sense of responsibility that seems to just pervade.”

Directing his comments to parents who have lost a child to suicide, Renlund said it’s common to feel sadness, anger and regret, and that “everyone involved” will wonder what they could have done differently — but that such feelings don’t serve a useful purpose.

“What I want to say is that this is not your fault,” Renlund said. “This is not an indictment of your parenting.”

Renlund refuted what he called “an old, sectarian notion that suicide is a sin and that someone who commits suicide is banished to Hell forever.”

“That is totally false,” Renlund said. “I believe the vast majority of cases will find that these individuals have lived heroic lives and that that suicide will not be a defining characteristic of their eternities.”

The video series also included a pair of testimonials: one of a man who lost his son to suicide and another of a woman who survived an attempted suicide.

“Just because we can’t see what someone is thinking or going through, it doesn’t mean that they don’t need help,” the woman said. “To someone who is struggling, I would definitely say please reach out. There’s always someone there who is willing to listen. There are crisis hotlines that you can call that are free and they are definitely open in talking to you 24/7. And also talk to someone that you trust.”

The entire video series can be viewed at mormonnewsroom.org.

Standard-Examiner editor/reporter Ryan Comer can be reached at rcomer@standard.net.

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