Pastor Teddy Parker suicide: It's anything but private

The suicide of Pastor Teddy Parker on Sunday has shocked many Christians far beyond the immediate circle of his church, Bibb Mount Zion Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia. Counsellor and evangelist LaQuita Suggs says churches must get rid of the stigma of

Pastor Teddy Parker

I really pray that the Lord bless Pastor Teddy Parker's natural family, his immediate church family and the body of Christ at large. My heart was deeply touched to hear about this tragedy not because he was a pastor, but because he is a human.

People commit suicide daily due to their belief that the situation is too 'something'.  It is natural for people to want to end the pain, but they sometimes take permanent routes because their mental state is blurred. I often wonder what makes people pretend that they have never been through a storm or that life has not rendered them something that seemed too overwhelming at some point.

What I know as well is that life will give you something, no matter who you are, and you need to have adequate spiritual and natural resources to be able to escape the bitter claws of life.

What I have come to know through my personal experience with suicide - having my own thoughts of "what is the point of life" and working with clients who are survivors of a loved one's death through suicide - is that it is hard to breathe in a storm or difficult situation. However, seeking help is what may preserve you.

Often within the church we face so many emotional hurdles that we are afraid to talk about the spiritual dilemmas that we face and thus come to believe that we are in this alone. In general, I believe that this pastor knew every scripture that is capable of restoring hope, but that wasn't enough at that particular time.

As a licensed clinical social worker and a licensed evangelist I have come to very difficult points and what is important for me is to talk more about what helped me through. You can't judge how a person is experiencing their situation(s) because you don't know, but what can be done is education about the reality of suicide.

My family encounter with suicide happened when I was 19-years-old and today at age 42, I still think about all the signs that were present that we all missed.  I only see them now because of my educational background and the gift that God has given.

I told someone yesterday that the appearance of happiness can be deceptive because it will mask the core emotions that are being experienced. However, there are some signs to indicate that a person may be contemplating suicide, but the only way to really know is to ask and/or suggest that the person seek professional help.

I am not taking any glory from God, but I know that I was called into this field by God for a reason and that gives the green light to seek help, but the church needs to give the approval and take away the stigma of reaching out.

Church officials at Bibb Mount Zion have said in a statement that this is a "private matter between the family and the BMZ church family" and asked that the public respects their privacy at this time. 

With all due respect the church can't afford to keep silent about this matter because it impacts the church body as a whole and it's a real issue that needs addressing. Additionally, we are all apart of God's body and we all to varying degrees are impacted by this awful tragedy.

Here are some things that people in the church can look at if they are concerned about someone in their midst:
1.Has something changed in the delivery of the words that the person is saying?
2.What drives the connection to the change of words?
3.Is the person happier or more isolated than before? (extreme changes can indicate something)
4.Is the person often in deep thoughts but doesn't want to share?
5.Do you know of something that has happened that is huge for that person?
6.Is the person verbalising future hopes to certain loved ones related to their life that seem untimely?
7.Did the person have a revelation that it is better to give and is therefore giving prized possessions away but using the scripture as justification?
8.Are there any significant changes in sleep/eating patterns?
9.Do you sense something is wrong (is there a general disconnection)?

LaQuita Suggs is a California-based grief recovery specialist and president of Suggs Counselling Services

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