I have a good friend who is an Air Force chaplain. I once asked him what he thought about M*A*S*H (since at the time we were both working at a military hospital). His answer was succinct, “loved the tv show, hated the song.” “The song?” I thought.
Sure enough, my friend was right. Although the TV show had an instrumental version for a theme song, the movie version had lyrics and the title of the song was, “Suicide is painless.”
Working as a chaplain and a minister, if there has ever been a song’s title that was further from the truth, that must be it. Suicide is probably one of the most painful events in the human experience. Ironically, the song’s writer, director Robert Altman’s son, has made more many times over from his lyrics (written at the age of 14) than his father ever made from directing the movie.
Suicide begins with the lie that I believe the Devil (or whatever you want to call the dark side of creation) whispers in someone’s ear, “It would be better if you weren’t here.” Of course this is far from true but because the individual is often in profound pain (physical or mental) he or she sees no way out from it, they begin to believe the lie.
If they act upon that belief, not only does it end what could be a promising future but it has life long impacts on every family member, close friend, or anyone who respects him or her that that person knew.
I consider suicide to be a social virus. Once someone commits suicide the statistical odds that someone else close to them will one day consider that a viable option rises dramatically.
What is the answer? The only answers come through prayer and through talking with others. The overwhelming majority of suicide victims tried to bear their pain in silence (or didn’t fully tell others what weighed on them). If we can get folks to talk it out, the chance for a brighter future rises dramatically.
I consider it to be an important part of my ministry to help folks who think about suicide or who have had a suicide in their families.
The only way to fight this pernicious enemy is to bring it out of the shadows into the light.
I hope that you will actively look and and reach out to anyone you suspect might harbor suicidal thoughts. The day to act is today.
At the end of M*A*S*H, it is a powerful moment when all of the characters finally leave and are able to head home from a spot where so many were lost over the years. Let us endeavor to reduce those left behind because they saw no better option than suicide. We have the power to reduce the amount of pain and sorrow in this world everyday that we prevent a suicide from happening.
There is much to hope for. And there is no one better to share that than God’s people.
All the best,