At some point, sidewalk counselors are likely to encounter women so desperate that they feel if they have their baby, they will kill themselves. Also, post-abortive women can experience such deep depression and remorse following the abortion that they may express suicidal thoughts. Either situation is very serious and it is best to have a plan in place before you encounter such a scenario.
Most communities have a suicide prevention website. The National Suicide Prevention hotline is available 24 hours/7 days a week. This is an important number to have and to share with anyone who is expressing suicidal thoughts or desires. The website, https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org, is a valuable resource with a wealth of information.
This is a secular resource, and therefore, I am hesitant to use it. There are Christian counseling and suicide prevention resources such as this: https://www.christiansuicideprevention.com. This website has an email contact but not a hotline; however, the ministry approaches the suicidal crisis from a Christian worldview.
My experience recently with a post-abortive woman was she was willing to speak with me, but she would not initially call the suicide hotline I gave her. If that is the case, there are strategies we can employ to help breathe hope into desperate women.
Post-Abortive Suicidal Women
Fortunately, there are many post-abortive programs that will help women struggling with the aftermath of abortion. I often recommend an online program if someone is unwilling to attend a group program but is open to post-abortive healing. If the suicidal thoughts are mentioned, the woman is in crisis and needs some more immediate intervention. An excellent resource is Stephanie Reinhart, who runs “Restored Life,” the LoveLife post-abortive program. Stephanie can be reached at Stephanie@lovelife.org. I will mention her a little later and how her training helped this suicidal woman.
Suicidal Pregnant Woman
Most of the moms we encounter considering abortion are in some sort of crisis. Not many of them express suicidal tendencies, but some have. It is often true that their focus is so much on the problems and fractured relationships that have led to considering abortion that many of them do feel hopeless.
While we know that there is no hope outside of Jesus, there are things we need to be aware of to effectively counsel the women who are in deep depression and crisis. My goal is always to bring them the hope of the Lord and the truth of the Gospel, but how we reach that discussion is important.
Five Key Steps to Take with A Suicidal Woman
One of the very informative websites (listed below) on basic steps to take lists five key things you can do if you encounter a suicidal woman.
- Ask directly if she is suicidal; ask how she is hurting; ask how can I help? Very importantly LISTEN so she knows she is heard. Focus on anything the woman may say that she gives as her reasons for living, and try not to impose YOUR reasons for her to live. Suicidal women may feel ignored and their pain marginalized if we don’t listen to the source of their sorrow. Contrary to what you may think, studies indicate that talking about suicidal ideation helps reduce the likelihood of suicide.
- Be there. Being present, physically, by phone or anyway you can, shows support and is very key for helping suicidal people. Suicidal people often feel disconnected from others, and by establishing a connection, we can reduce their low sense of belonging.
- Keep them Safe. Find out if they have already taken any action to harm themselves. Do they have a plan in how they intend to kill themselves? Knowing the answer to these questions can guide our next step and indicate the severity of the suicide thoughts. If they are not physically close to you, it may require contacting local authorities if the person is contemplating taking action.
- Help them Connect. Ongoing support with suicide prevention counseling experts can help establish a safety net in their crisis. Setting up a plan for who they should contact if they feel desperate and alone can help them should the crisis escalate. Church pastors or mentors could be a source of connection that can help them feel they are not alone and have someone they can talk to. Those who call suicide prevention hotlines are less likely to feel suicidal or overwhelmed.
- Follow up. After you connect them with trained emergency hotlines or professionals, continue to stay in touch. Studies show that there is a reduction in deaths by suicide when follow up is involved.
Below are a list of resources with a wealth of information to help guide you if the woman is unwilling to talk with a professional at first. These resources also are helpful in trying to connect the woman with someone who is trained in suicide intervention.
Save.org: Learn more about suicide risk factors, warning signs, what to do if you need help, and what to do if you are worried about a loved one.
BeThe1to is a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline initiative that outlines five steps that you can take to support family, friends, and community members who are struggling with suicidal thoughts or who are in crisis.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides information on a variety of resources that can be utilized to prevent suicide and to address mental health needs. It includes information for specific high risk groups, including LGBTQ+ individuals, veterans, disaster survivors, suicide attempt survivors, and individuals and families who have lost a loved one to mental illness.
Veterans Crisis Line shares valuable information about resources that are available to our veterans, including information on suicide prevention.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website shares valuable information on suicide, suicide prevention and how to seek help for yourself or a loved one. They also share information on initiatives such as Out of the Darkness Walks and events.
Sharing the Gospel
Even after finally talking with the suicide prevention hotline, the post-abortive mom I was counseling remained distraught and passively suicidal. I knew the only hope was the Gospel. Over a period of a few days, I shared the Gospel and despite still feeling in despair, the woman did submit her life to Jesus. Nonetheless, the suicidal ideation did not end. I remained in contact and shared daily verses with her, as well as counseling her per the suicide prevention suggestions; however, she kept cycling back to despair and wishing someone would kill her. She told me she would not commit suicide, but she hoped someone would do the killing for her!
At that point, I called Stephanie. One of the main aspects of this program is restoring a sense of who we are in Christ. In fact, one of the things she shared later with the woman I was counseling were the “declarations” of who we are in Christ (“Who I Am in Christ” below). The next day, the mom texted me with a much clearer mind and attitude regarding her situation, and said she felt she had reached a turning point in her relationship with God. A peace had finally begun to enter her heart.
Knowledge of suicide prevention techniques and resources are critical, but the most critical thing we can offer is the Gospel. Never neglect to dispel the lies of Satan and present the truth of who we are in Christ!
Angela Fisher, Masters Study counseling student at Liberty University and fellow sidewalk counselor, compiled a succinct policy for sidewalk counselors dealing with any suicidal people:
Suicide Threat Protocol
If a mom says that she is suicidal, ask these questions:
- Do you have a plan?
- Do you have a way to execute your plan?
- When do you intend to do this?
- If no and don’t have a time planned: They are safe for now. Connect to a professional.
- If yes and/or have a time they intend to kill themselves: They are NOT safe for now. Call 9-1-1 and get them immediate help.
- If someone has been talking about suicide and then you are unable to get them, you can call the local police to perform a “wellness check.” They will go to their home and verify they are safe. This is why it is important to have someone’s address if they ever mention suicidal thoughts.
Who I am in Christ
I renounce the lie that I am rejected, unloved, dirty or shameful, because in Christ I am completely accepted.
I am a child of God: Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
I am Christ’s friend: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate (friend) with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 2:1)
I am fruitful in Christ: I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
I have been justified by Christ: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
I am united with the Lord and I am one spirit with Him: “But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:17).
I have been bought with a price. I belong to God: Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
I am a member of Christ’s body: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).
I am a saint; a holy one: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people (saints) in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1).
I have been adopted as God’s child: “He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—” (Ephesians 1:5).
I have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit: “Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us” (Ephesians 2:18).
I have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14).
I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins: “So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority” (Colossians 2:10).
I am complete in Christ. I renounce the lie that I am guilty, unprotected, alone, or abandoned because, IN CHRIST, I am TOTALLY SECURE.
I am free forever from condemnation: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2)
I am assured all things work together for good: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
I cannot be separated from the love of God: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).
I have been established, anointed and sealed by God: “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (Corinthians 1:21-22).
I am confident that the good work God has begun in me will be perfected: “… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
I am hidden with Christ in God: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossian 3:2-3)
I can find grace and mercy to help in time of need: “So let us come boldly (confidently) to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16)
I renounce the lie that I am worthless, inadequate, helpless, or hopeless because IN CHRIST I am DEEPLY significant.
I am the salt of the earth and the light of the world: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:13-14)
I am a branch of the true vine and a channel of His life: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes a so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:1-5)
I am a personal Spirit-empowered witness of Christ’s: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
I am a temple of God: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)
I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realm: “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:6).
I am God’s workmanship, created for good works: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10)
I may approach God with freedom and confidence: “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 3:12).