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Women who answer God's call provide valuable local ministries (1/11/04)

Pastors predict bleak future if local casinos open (12/28/03)

Soap, figurines, candles keep books company in Christian stores (12/21/03)

In order to form a more perfect union (11/30/03)

Federal Marriage Amendment receives Fellowship’s endorsement (11/23/03)

Drug czar congratulates Teen Challenge (11/16/03)

Christian fiction no long back-shelf item (10/19/03)

DREAM3 benefits churches (10/19/03)

Youth rise to DC03 challenge (10/12/03)

Ministry uses drama, music to touch city for Christ (9/28/03)

Displeased viewers protest raunchy programs (9/21/03)

Grit, determination key to cities blocking cable pornography (8/31/03)

Economic slump doesn't always derail giving (8/24/03)

Ruling threatens family, Christian leaders say (8/17/03)

Anti-aging options require balanced approach to health, beauty (8/10/03)

Convoy of Hope reaches out to inner-city neighborhood (7/27/03)

Fight for the flag moves to nation’s schools (7/20/03)

Drama speaks volumes to alienated veterans (7/13/03)

Church's integrity well received following nightmarish ordeal (6/29/03)

Tornadoes cut wide swath across nation's midsection (6/22/03)

Accountability partners provide human feedback that filters don't (6/15/03)

Checking out your horoscope? God advises you to skip it (6/8/03)

Christian filmmakers pursue wider market success (5/25/03)

Intervention is key to preventing suicide (5/18/03)

Adoption often right decision for young expectant mothers (5/11/03)

Dallas-based ministry keeps inmates out of jail (4/27/03)

Medical analysis of Jesus' death generates interest (4/20/03)

Small-town church reaches community (4/13/03)

Young married couples lulled by false sense of security (3/30/03)

Virtual gambling days may be numbered (3/23/03)

Contemporary Christian music copes with its continuing success (3/16/03)

A/G prayer event set for gathering in nation's capital (3/9/03)

Volunteers give church voice in community (2/23/02)

Federal law protects churches in zoning battles (2/16/03)

Singles find cyberspace dating not always match made in heaven (2/9/03)

Predators often plan strategies long in advance (1/19/03)

The Cross and the Switchblade still makes impact 40 years later (1/12/03)

Frontline Reports

2002 PE Report stories

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Intervention is key to preventing suicide

By Kirk Noonan (May 18, 2003)

In 1990, high school senior Eric Renegar drove to his father’s grave and attempted to end his life by shooting himself in the face with a .30-caliber rifle. He severely wounded himself, but did not die. Today, Renegar uses the scars on his face to combat suicide and educate society about the problem that in 1999 the U.S. Surgeon Generaldeclared a national epidemic. In doing so, Renegar has made it his mission to change the way many people think of suicide and help people better understand those who are suicidal.

“We have to create a society that is not immune to the word suicide,” says Renegar, 30, executive director of AboutFace Assemblies, an educational assistance program based in Tennessee that helps educators and caregivers address issues such as suicide. “The society I am talking about needs to be confident and open to the word so it can be addressed and people will be prepared and trained to deal with the issue when it is recognized.”

Toward that end, Renegar preaches suicide education, awareness and intervention. He believes those three concepts will stem the tide of suicide, which claims more than 80,000 lives in America each year.

According to Renegar, when the public is educated about suicide, caregivers such as parents, teachers, church youth leaders, coaches and police officers will know how to intervene when the topic is broached through verbal and non-verbal signs by teens and other young people. Making the public aware of suicide, he says, can help erase the stigma and myths associated with it and at the same time expose the truth and reveal options.

Each year nearly 5,000 people between the ages of 15-24 commit suicide. That’s approximately 14 suicides in this age group every day. According to government statistics, more people between the ages of 13 and 24 will die this year from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, strokes, pneumonia, influenza and chronic lung disease combined. Each year more than 500,000 young people attempt suicide. For many the problem can be traced back to depression.

Ted* tried to commit suicide after a family member had him taken to a hospital for evaluation and treatment. Being at the hospital, he says, saved his life.

“Before diagnosis I felt hopeless, lonely and I couldn’t stand other people’s company,” says Ted, now 50, noting that today he is not suicidal because of medication and counseling he receives. “I thought death would be better than living.”

Today, Ted tells others who are struggling with depression that it is involuntary and not something they brought on themselves. “God could heal me miraculously,” he says, “but He chose to bring my healing through my doctors and medicine and that is OK with me.”

Though much depression is an involuntary and treatable illness, experts say that many who have it do not seek professional help because of the stigma that accompanies it. Others do not seek help because they believe they can overcome it through sheer willpower. Education and awareness are crucial.

“Unfortunately most people who suffer from depression do not seek treatment,” says Kathryn Wurtz, a psychologist and director of the child and adolescent department at EMERGE Ministries in Akron, Ohio. “One source reports that only 15 percent of adolescent suicide victims were in treatment at the time of their death.

“It is vitally important for people to realize that depression and other mental illness are real medical diseases that require professional attention,” she says. “Often medication is needed as well as counseling.”

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, signs that a young person might be suicidal include withdrawal from family and friends, rebellious behavior, drug and alcohol use, marked personality change, poor grades, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, themes of death in writings or artwork, the giving away of prized possessions, talk of death and complaints of physical symptoms. Couple those signs with depression, a history of previous suicide attempts, access to firearms, alcohol or drugs, and the results could be deadly.

The National Mental Health Association recommends talking with suicidal people as a primary means of averting a suicide attempt. When dealing with a young person who is contemplating suicide, the following points are important:

• Offer help and listen. Don’t lecture. Encourage the teen to talk about feelings.

• Trust your instincts. If it seems the situation is serious, break a confidence if it is necessary to save a life.

• Pay attention when someone talks about suicide. Ask direct questions and don’t be afraid of frank discussions.

• Seek professional help. It is essential to seek advice from a professional who has experience helping depressed teens.

Pastors and Christian counselors also emphasize the importance of remembering friends and family members in prayer and passing along Scriptures of encouragement when a person appears to be battling depression and having thoughts of suicide.

Ruth Kaunley, a counselor at Central Bible College in Springfield, Mo., says many people choose to be ill-informed when it comes to the topic of suicide because they think they will do more harm than good by addressing the topic with a suicidal person.

“Just the opposite is true,” she says. “Most people give hints hoping that someone will give them a reason to live. The more it is talked about the better chance a suicidal person has of living rather than dying.”

Renegar says the most effective way to determine if someone is suicidal is to simply ask them if they are having thoughts of suicide and then ask more specific questions about their plans for suicide if they admit to such feelings. “You have to be clear and direct,” he says. “Answers to questions such as how, when and where they will commit suicide will expose their intent. If they can answer those questions it shows they have actually thought enough about suicide that they are at a greater risk and may need professional assistance.”

These days Renegar can be found working as a youth counselor, speaking at his suicide prevention assemblies ( or helping his wife, Robin, raise their 4-year-old son, Lewis. Renegar says he tells people the truth when he is asked about his scars.

“At one time in my life I wanted to die, and now I am so happy that I am alive,” he says. “I was fortunate that I lived. The fact about people who attempt suicide is some live and some die. I almost died, but I am so happy I lived.”

*Name has been changed.


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