While the NFL regular season officially kicked off last night with the Detroit Lions upsetting the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, this Sunday marks opening day for most football fans. However, that day has the potential to be life-changing for reasons that have nothing to do with football. You see, September 10 is also World Suicide Prevention Day, and a number of organizations are partnering to use the NFL’s platform to help speak to people who might be thinking about taking their own life.
One such group is QB United, which was started by two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Jeff Hostetler. It consists of fifty-seven current and former NFL quarterbacks who have come together to raise awareness and encourage people to seek help if they are considering suicide. The names include legendary players like Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw, John Elway, Warren Moon, Dan Marino, and three Mannings: Archie, Peyton, and Eli. Current players like Derek Carr, Kirk Cousins, Geno Smith, Daniel Jones, and Dak Prescott are also part of the organization.
The latter of those players—Jones and Prescott—will be playing against each other in the day’s final game when the Giants and Cowboys face off on Sunday Night Football.
QB United has put together a one-minute video in which aggregated clips from the players are pieced together to deliver a message of encouragement and support to those struggling with suicidal thoughts. The New York Giants will play the video prior to the start of the game and then it will be featured again at the two-minute warning.
However, they are also encouraging people to share the video on their own platforms as well. The goal is to reach 250 million people through the campaign, which runs through World Mental Health Day on October 10. To that end, they have also partnered with organizations like the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and Stay Here to provide resources and help to those in need.
And considering that, on average, someone commits suicide every 40 seconds, that help is as needed now as it’s ever been.
When Christians wrestle with suicidal thoughts
In a recent Denison Forum Podcast, Stay Here founder Jacob Coyne spoke about the pervasiveness of suicide, particularly among the younger generations, and the steps we can take to make a real difference.
The first of those steps is removing the stigma that often surrounds suicide.
As Coyne described, “The more we expose and talk about this topic, the more we give people an opportunity to confess that that’s what they’re struggling with.” That desire to remove the barrier of shame that often prevents people from seeking or receiving help was a major reason why he helped to start Stay Here.
And as he went on to note, that shame can be especially acute in a Christian setting.
Every time Coyne teaches about suicide at a church, he ends his message by asking people to close their eyes and for anyone who has thought about taking their own life to open their eyes and raise their hand. Each time, multiple people in the congregation—including occasions where the number has stretched well beyond one hundred—have done so.
Christians are not immune to mental health struggles, suicidal thoughts, or the host of other issues that can lead someone to consider taking their own life. Too often, though, we think we should be. That’s why just knowing that you’re not alone and that the shame that so often accompanies such thoughts does not reduce your value in the eyes of God can be such a powerful tool to help people overcome their problems and choose life.
It’s also why every one of us needs to be prepared to step in and help should the need arise. But getting people to be part of the solution rather than simply aware of the problem is easier said than done.
How you can help others
It can be tempting to think that suicide will always be someone else’s problem. But given its rapid rise, particularly among young people where as many as four in ten teens struggle with suicidal thoughts on a daily basis, chances are high that all of us will have the opportunity to help save a life at some point. The question then becomes how well we will be equipped to do so when that situation arises.
In the podcast, Dr. Mark Turman likened such training to learning CPR. It’s a skill you hope you never have to use, but waiting until the need is apparent to learn how could mean you’re too late.
To that end, my encouragement to you today is to take steps now to learn how to respond when someone around you starts to send signals that they might be heading down the path to suicide. That road is typically gradual and filled with cries for help that far too often go unheard. Learning to recognize the warning signs and knowing what questions to ask can literally save lives.
The vast majority of those who take their own life don’t actually want to die. They just reach the point where life seems like too great a burden to carry. And even if you may not feel like the person best equipped to step in and help, just being willing to let God use you is often the most important step we can take.
That said, understanding some of the basics on best practices for how to do so can give God even more to work with when that time comes.
So whether it’s the free training offered by Stay Here or resources from another program, try to set aside some time this weekend to learn what to look for and how to respond when someone you know starts to head down the path toward suicide.
And if that person is you, know that there is no shame in those thoughts or feelings and that your life does matter. So please reach out to a friend or loved one, then seek help from a Christian counselor or therapist who can help you understand what’s led you to this point and how you can address those issues in a healthy, productive, and God-honoring way.
The Lord of all creation chose to give you life for a reason. And while it can be easy to lose sight of that fact from time to time, it doesn’t change the reality that your life matters to God.
Please, make sure it matters to you as well.
NOTE: For more on what the Bible says about suicide and answers to some of the more common misconceptions and questions surrounding it, see “What does the Bible say about suicide?”