How to Overcome Suicidal Thoughts

By J. Scott McElroy

(NOTE: This article first appeared at )

The world lost two incredibly talented and accomplished people to suicide recently, designer Kate Spade and traveling chef/TV host Anthony Bourdain. It’s a sad story that keeps playing out; successful, yet anguished artists who end their lives; icons like Hemingway, Monroe, Cobain, Williams, and too many more. The deaths of these influential people sometimes even cause spikes that psychologists have named “suicide contagion.” If you or someone you know has thoughts about suicide, read on to see how to fight them.

I minister with and to artists, and it’s true that creative people can be sensitive or susceptible to depression. But this tragedy of suicidal tendencies grips people from all walks of life. The CDC says suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in America.

Knowing Jesus doesn't keep us from struggling with mental issues.

Knowing Jesus doesn’t automatically keep us from struggling with mental issues.

Christians instinctively know that this phenomenon offers more evidence that the world needs Jesus. He is the way, in him is the truth and life (John 14:6). He designed and gives hope and purpose for our life on this earth (Ephesians 2:10), and the promise of joyous eternal life in the next (1 John 2:25).

Still, many of us experience that–even with knowing Jesus–we sometimes fight with mental issues. Many times the same issues that those poor souls suffered from: depression, anxiety, chemical imbalances, hopelessness, isolation, situational pressures. In fact, many prominent Christians dealt with these things, including C.S. Lewis and Charles Spurgeon. The Church has often had difficulties dealing with mental illness, sometimes shaming those who suffer, over-spiritualizing the causes, or sometimes ignoring it.

Suicidal thoughts have a spiritual element that must be addressed.

Suicidal thoughts have a spiritual element that must be addressed.

I’m thankful that the tide is turning and there is less stigma for people of faith who deal with mental illness, and who choose modern treatments to help with healing. Mental illness that leads to suicide is a complex problem that often involves many levels of issues that need to be addressed, but these issues can also often have spiritual components. When those issues converge to push a person toward suicide you can bet there is a spiritual force working overtime. And it needs to be dealt with.

I’m not an expert on suicide or spiritual warfare, but I can tell you this: I have been harassed by a spirit of suicide several times. Every time God provided what I needed to overcome it. Often it dispelled immediately when confronted, other times it took more of a fight.

The clues that a suicide spirit is harassing you include:

The clues that a suicide spirit is harassing you include:

1. Thoughts about impulsively killing yourself that immediately make you think “Where did that come from?”

2. Impulsive thoughts of killing yourself when driving or handling a knife.

3. Subtle thoughts about what it would be like to kill yourself that seem to hang around.

4. An unreasonable, overwhelming sense of confusion or despair that leads to thoughts of exiting your life.

5. A thick sense of confusion and anxiety that descends on you and leads you to feel that killing yourself makes sense.

Satan tempts us to entertain certain lies for so long, we start to believe they're our own thoughts.

Satan tempts us to entertain certain lies, and we might start to believe they’re our own thoughts.

The Bible tells us that we have a spiritual enemy (2 Corinthians 2:11). Satan is a liar, the father of lies and a murderer (John 8:44). He only comes to steal kill and destroy (John 10:10). He specializes in deception, confusion, hopelessness, despair and death. Sometimes Satan can get us to entertain thoughts (lies) along those lines, often enough or over a long enough time that we believe they are ours. He undoubtedly harassed Kate and Anthony with lies for many years before they succumbed.

In her article 7 Lies the Enemy Wants Us to Believe about Suicide, Debbie McDaniel identifies typical lies like “They’re all better off without me,” “No one really cares about me anyway. I’m all alone in this,” “I just can’t face this pain anymore. The trial is too hard.”

My friend Dr. Marcus Warner of Deeper Walk International, offers a few suggestions for dealing with suicidal thoughts:

4. Identify Satan’s lies.

Five Ways to Deal with Suicidal Thoughts:

1. Resist the enemy.

James 4:7 says you can “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” You might say something like, “I command any spirit that wishes to harm me to leave.” Or even, “Satan, flee by the blood of Jesus!”

2. Apply scripture.

Remind yourself of God’s promises. Jesus came to give you, “Life, and that more abundantly.” (John 10:10). 2 Corinthians 10:3 says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” Those weapons include the Word of God (Bible), the Blood of the Lamb, and the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11). You might make a list of scriptures that help you fight against the temptation to suicidal thoughts and keep them handy, such as, “I will not die; instead, I will live to tell what the LORD has done.” (Psalm 118:17)

3. Identify Satan’s lies.

Satan is a master storyteller. He is always spinning a narrative designed to lead to destruction. Ask yourself, “Is this a thought I want to be thinking? Is this a thought God wants me to be thinking?” If not, it’s a lie from Satan. Remember, you are not your temptations. You are not doomed to do something—including suicide–just because Satan tempted you with it. Jesus gave the ultimate example of that, in defeating Satan’s temptations in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11).

4. Reach out to others for prayer or support.

If at all possible, have another person stand with you in prayer against suicidal thoughts.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts make sure you also investigate underlying issues that may have opened the door to them. Are you feeling isolated? Are you depressed? Don’t hesitate to get counseling or see a professional right away. If they recommend medication, try it to see how it works. There are many different kinds, and you’ll likely find one that works for you. You can also talk to someone who understands the mental and physical issues anytime 24/7 at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Or go online at for more information and help.

Resist the enemy's lies.

5. Don’t buy in to the enemy’s lies about your situation.

Resist him. He is no match for the God of life, who lives in you (Colossians 1:27), has a purpose and good things planned for your life (Ephesians 2:10), and will rescue you when you call (Psalm 91:15, Psalm 50:15).

Addressing the full spectrum of issues—mental, physical, and especially spiritual—that can contribute to suicidal thoughts is the best way to overcome them.



J. Scott McElroy is the author of Finding Divine Inspirationand The Creative Church Handbook: Releasing the Power of the Arts in Your Congregation, and director of The New Renaissance Arts Movement. He blogs at Reach him at Scott (at)

2 Responses

  1. tabby
    | Reply

    i need help with someone i love very much. can help me with this person , need help with suicide temp. email me

    • J Scott McElroy
      | Reply

      Hi Tabby,
      I just sent you an email with some info.
      Blessings and peace,

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