Let me tell you about one of my big regrets in youth ministry.
One of my small group leaders came up to me and told me a student kept bring up suicide. I brushed this leader off and said it is not a big deal unless the student talks about going through with it.
For the next handful of weeks, this leader would come to me with concerns. I kept not taking them seriously enough. Finally, after weeks, we brought the parents in on the conversation.
It was clear that the parents were not impressed that they were not told about their student and suicide concerns immediately.
Suicide is a very real issue that you will have to deal with. Let me give you some advice on what to do and not to do.
What To Do With A Suicidal Student
A student comes to you and says they struggle with suicidal thoughts, what do you do?
- Stay Calm
Now is NOT the time to freak out. Take a breath, say a prayer and look at the student in the eyes.
- Direct Questions
Do not beat around the bush. Ask them directly if they are thinking about committing suicide,
- It’s Never a Joke
Take the student very seriously. Also, assure them that you will support them.
- Get Help
Involve parents, suicide prevention organizations where you live. Suicide is bigger than just you.
- Follow Up
Meet with the student and the parents regularly. Offer to be a support and a help in resourcing the family.
What NOT To Say To A Suicidal Student
- Don’t Worry I Won’t Tell Anyone
This is dangerous because you MUST tell other people. You are making a promise that you will break. Most likely in breaking the promise you will lose the students confidence.
- Suicide Is A Sin
Even if you believe this is a true statement this is not the time to say it. Right now the student does not need a theological discussion. What they need is to know that you care.
In youth ministry there is a very good chance that you will have to deal with suicide at some level. I hope this gives you some tools in deal with the situation when it arrives.