At the UNVEILx: #AskMeAnything webinar on suicide, we hear from Pastor Edric Sng, Deputy Senior Pastor at Bethesda Bedok Tampines Church; Wilfred Teo, Educator, and Coordinator of Bukit Panjang Gospel Chapel’s Youth Ministry; and youths Gladis Lin, a fresh graduate of Singapore University of Social Sciences, Moses Aung, a student at Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Vanna Wong, a social work student from Nanyang Polytechnic, as they discuss the topic of suicidal thoughts, hope for those struggling and how those around them can help.
Additionally, for this article, we have Pamela Koh, Lead Counsellor of ThriveSg, registered counsellor with the Singapore Association for Counselling & certified Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapist, provide her insights.
“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.” – Psalm 34:17
The struggle with our thoughts
“Suicide ideation is usually a path explored when a person is unable to make sense of or overcome their mental health struggles,” said Wilfred Teo.
“A lot of dark thoughts come from our environment, what we consume, and who we listen to. These thoughts could also be the result of having a family background where parents speak negatively or are very cynical about things,” he continued.
Negative thoughts can also be triggered by social media through comparisons with others. Fitness or gaming trends can cause one to feel inadequate about one’s image and performance. When people do not have routines to help them process their thoughts by themselves, they could start brooding and wallowing in negative thoughts.
In the spiritual realm, the presence of evil can cause us to focus on dark thoughts. This results in us amplifying thoughts negatively or going into a downward spiral. “For those who believe in the authenticity of the Bible, Ephesians 6:12 says the struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. The struggles we go through are very real and suicidal thoughts can happen to anyone, believer or not,” said Gladis Lin.
What should I do when I have suicidal thoughts?
In Psalm 69, David expresses his pain and anguish in a raw way and cries out to God in the midst of his troubles. “We have to recognise that everyone, at one time or another, will have dark thoughts,” said Wilfred. “The question for ourselves is whether we dwell in these thoughts or find different resources like going to God in prayer or find people we can talk to help get us out of our dark thoughts.”
“Seek help in the form of counselling from professionals, psychiatrists and psychologists, either in the government or private sector,” said Gladis.
“When I spoke out, it was a cry for help to anyone who could help me. What deterred me before was people thinking I’m weak, pity and look at me differently. It was proven somewhat true with some people. However, I’ve come to look at the issue like another sickness. It is something that happens to me, but doesn’t make me weaker in any sense,” shared Gladis.
“Having dark and suicidal thoughts is a human condition. Anyone who has been in that condition does not want others to go through it as well, so please reach out,” appealed Pastor Edric Sng.
Adding on, Pamela Koh said, “If one is struggling with suicidal ideation, it is usually a sign that there is a part of us that is carrying a lot of pain. You don’t have to carry this pain alone and help is available. Talking to a trained counselor or therapist will help one to have a deeper understanding of the pain behind the suicidal ideation and where it came from so that the pain can be processed and healed.”
“What helped me through anxiety was having a mentor and a leader that I trust who were there for me. I was able to talk to somebody about how I felt,” said Vanna Wong.
Those with suicidal thoughts may encounter people who echo what they are going through and not give alternative forms of encouragement, leading to a vicious cycle. Surrounding yourself with an edifying community that anchors you to reality will help you in your journey.
“Counselling can help one to learn healthier coping strategies to manage emotions and suicidal ideations better. When we keep dwelling on our problems alone, we often feel stuck because we don’t see a way out. By reaching out and sharing our problems with trusted individuals or professionals, it may help us gain different and new perspectives of looking at our problems. That helps us to become unstuck and get the emotional support we need to overcome the challenges we face in life,” shared Pamela.
“Write your thoughts down and how you feel towards them,” continued Gladis. Taking a page from mindfulness practices, she advised those struggling with dark thoughts to meditate on God’s word, acknowledge what they are feeling, and reach out to someone eventually.
Moses Aung added, “Sometimes we cannot fight these thoughts as they come on to us. It is okay to feel sad or inadequate. Take in these thoughts for a while and think about the things you can change, and let go of the things you cannot change.”
“God doesn’t create situations where He wants you to take the option of suicide,” said Pastor Edric. “We have a wonderful plan set out before us. It doesn’t always feel that way, but the Bible is clear on it and we must take it literally – that God wants good for us. If there is a negative situation and we give up, we stop short of receiving that gift and promise,” he continued.
“For those who have contemplated about or are contemplating suicide, all I can plead with you is to hang in there, give God a little bit of time,” said Pastor Edric. “Cling on to God. Redemption means that someday the light will shine in,” he encouraged.
“Life is like a movie. If you stop watching halfway, you will never know how the movie will end. It may feel like you are at the lowest point of life. but it is not the end of the movie. Stay tuned in because God loves you and He can turn things around, and restore and redeem all your pain for His higher purpose and for your good,” added Pamela.
How can I help a friend who has suicidal thoughts?
“If you are thinking of engaging someone with dark thoughts, listen rather than offer solutions because usually the person is going through something we do not understand,” said Gladis.
In addition, your presence makes a big difference to someone struggling with suicidal thoughts. “Being a persevering rock helps in the long run until a depressed person is able to independently able to regulate their feelings and thoughts,” said Wilfred.
Journeying as a trusted group with someone with suicidal thoughts helps to share the burden and benefits the well-being of those offering support. Confidentiality within the group should be kept. However, external intervention should be sought if a person’s life is at risk.
Ensure that your own spiritual tank is replenished. “It is important to know how to top up your own spiritual and emotional tank. If you are just going to deplete yourself, sometimes you will run low,” said Pastor Edric.
“Make sure that you are filled with the Spirit such that when you pour out into someone else, it is because you are overflowing with hope and joy as mentioned in Romans 15:13. It is out of that overflow that you have that much to give someone else,” he continued.
“Be the person that anchors someone struggling with suicidal thoughts to reality and God’s truth,” said Wilfred. Speak words of life to the person and remind them that, no matter what that person thinks of himself or herself, God loves them deeply. Pray and let the person hear your prayers, or, if corresponding over text, type out your prayer for the person.
Hope at the end of the tunnel
“For those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts, know that you are not alone. There is hope and let’s not give up going through the marathon,” said Vanna.
As someone who found himself looking down from the 13th storey and contemplating suicide as a youth, Pastor Edric shared, “You may find yourself right at the bottom of a deep mineshaft, but at some point you will start to see a glimmer of light and more from there. The only way you are going to get there is if you don’t allow yourself to get off the lift. I didn’t have an epiphany, but that was the start of a redemptive plan for me.”
Quoting Psalm 34:17-22, Pastor Edric encouraged, “If you are brokenhearted and crushed in spirit, God is specifically looking out for you. If you feel like your bones are broken, know that He will protect all your bones. No one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned, God is always at work.”
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, do get specialised help and counselling in this area with:
If you are a tertiary student who would like someone to journey with you through counselling and learning to build emotional resilience and wellness, do contact Cru’s ThriveSg ministry at firstname.lastname@example.org
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