Doing Life Together

compact-cassette-157537_1280My daughter brought the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” to my attention. She was riveted to the series, but felt it was dark and disturbing. “Mom, you’ve got to watch this. I don’t know what to think as it gets progressively darker.”

If you don’t know, the series is based on a 2007 fictional novel by Jay Ashew. The main character, Hannah Baker, takes her life by suicide and leaves 13 tapes behind that explain her reason to commit suicide.

The pros and cons of the series have been discussed on multiple platforms now for weeks. Everything from the con: romanticizes suicide to the pro: this series provides a wake-up call to a national crisis can be found in myriad critiques.

While suicide is rooted in mental health issues, is complicated and often leaves the family confused as to what created the final decision for someone to take his or her life, there is also a spiritual root we hesitate to discuss.

In order to end your life, you have to be deceived to believe there is no hope, no future and no other way of escape. This deception finds its place in depression, but is also spiritual in nature. What voice is telling the person there is no way out but death by their own hand? It is not the voice of God. The enemy’s purpose is to steal, kill and destroy. God values every life. The enemy wants us destroyed and roams the earth looking for whom he can devour.  When you are depressed, angry, wounded, traumatized, etc., doubt creeps in and causes despair.

I am saddened that I live in a culture that no longer values the power of faith on the national stage. Faith is one of the strongest preventions to poor mental health and negative well-being. Dr. Harry Koenig, well-respected Duke University physician and researcher, conducted a meta review of the impact of faith on mental health. He found faith to be a protective factor in mental health. But discussing faith as an important element to keeping hope alive in people who struggle is missing from the national conversation of treatment. Instead, we give lip service to the notion of holistic health—body, mind and spirit, but ignore the spirit. We are desperate to help those who contemplate suicide, but reluctant to integrate faith into mental health discussions.

While people will continue to debate the pros and cons of the series, I know there are teens triggered by watching, there are those who have given up hope and see no future, and there are those who will be traumatized by what they see with no one to process. And the help for those people will include everything but faith unless the church starts talking and truly becoming an emergency room for the suicidal person.

I grieve for the families who have lost a loved one to suicide. I grieve for those who don’t know they are made in the image of God and were born with a hope and a future. And I grieve for those in the suicidal struggle who will get body and mind help, but no spiritual help.

Yes, we need good mental health treatment. But we are body, mind and SPIRIT. Only God can mend a broken heart and give hope to those who have none. So let’s recognize the signs of suicide and get people into treatment, but let’s not forget that true healing includes all parts of a person including their spirit.


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