As we acknowledge September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, Encompass Therapist Jordan Kamwesa, LPC shares her thoughts on the importance of supportive communities and creating spaces where hope and belonging can flourish.
Suicide is not a topic that is easy to discuss, yet it is one that plagues communities in the United States. According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), in 2018, Suicide was ranked as the 10th leading cause of death in the United States for all ages and the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 34. When I first learned of this statistic, my heart broke for the lives that were lost to hopelessness and despair, and secondly I was left wondering the question, “Why is there such a hopelessness and despair being felt by so many in our country?”
As I began to consider this question, I was taken to the scriptures of the early church and the community that was forged between Jesus’s followers and I see a picture that looks very different than the community I see in American communities . . . even Christian American communities. One of the tenants of Americanism is the idea of individualism, which drastically contrasts the picture I see in the early church that values collectivism and communal sacrifice.
“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshipped together at the Temple each day and met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity – all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all people” (Acts 2:42-47a, NLT).
Looking at this passage, I see the hope that so many of our communities are missing due to the individualism and self-reliance that we pride ourselves in. The community of the early church valued:
A sense of admiration and respect
A generosity that is for everyone
A heart for those in need
Joy and belonging
Without the hope and joy of community found in Acts, we are left with loneliness, disapproval of others, self-reliance, self-centeredness, despair and disconnectedness. Without hope and a sense of belonging, we are left with despair and loneliness. I am challenged to look at my own community and am left asking myself these questions:
How does my view of community need to change?
How can I extend my reach so that others have a place to belong?
How can I be more generous with my time and resources so that I may help meet the needs of others?
How can I be more others-focused rather than fulfill my own agenda?
How can I foster a genuine sense of community in world that values individualism?
I don’t have the answers to these questions, but invite you into the challenge of looking at your own community values and begin to allow change to happen so that those who are feeling loneliness and despair can have a place to land that is safe, loving and full of hope.