When we offer our daily devotions, perhaps we might pray for someone unknown to us who is contemplating suicide. Perhaps we can join some penance or small suffering to our prayers that may help a total stranger to carry their load. We can also pray, as I was once instructed by a priest, to pray for those about to die, either suddenly or from illness. If worse comes to worse we can at least pray for the mercy of God to be shown.
I will never forget the day about five years ago when one of the nurses walked into my office, looking stunned. "I have to go home. My mother just killed herself."
Hearing this was especially disturbing to me as I had met this woman just a few months before. She was one of the sweetest people I'd ever met, totally in love, it seemed, with her new grandchild. Why this?
We found someone to drive my friend home and as we waited for her ride to come, she talked a little bit about what she had been told. Her mother had driven herself far from home, pulled over and took an overdose of something. A note was found, the contents of which I was glad were not shared with me but which I knew did little to help her daughter understand why she chose to do such a thing. The guilt suffered by my friend has never really entirely abated. It's just that some days are better, or worse, than others.
I know I have written this before, but Father Benedict Groeschel once described mental illness as a crown of thorns. Depression is very real for some people and not something we should ever take lightly. But at the same time it's important to remember that we only have so much control. When someone is determined to take their own life, they will find a way to try. Our prayers may just be the obstacle that stops them.
Some day, when we reach our Homeland, God may share with us how many times He carried the load for us when we thought we could no longer do it. And He may also share with us how many times our prayers made the difference in someone's life, including the decision to continue living.