You may be aware that it was recently ‘International men’s day’, and this year the focus was on raising awareness of the high levels of suicide amongst men – CVM fully supported this initiative and wrote a few articles and and even conducted a radio interview or two! I was sitting in bed the other night reading the news and noticed that we now have a record number of prison suicides in the UK since records of this began in 1978.
I started to read into this stuff a bit more and got in touch with the Howard League for Penal Reform, (who conducted the research) because I wanted to know how many of these suicides were men.
Obviously we’ve got more men in prison so we are going to expect to see more men than women in this equation but it still hits hard when you look at the numbers.
In 2015 there were 89 self-inflicted deaths in Prison, 84 of those were men, and in 2016 of the 102 self-inflicted deaths in 2016, 92 were men.
One of the fundamental things my Christian faith has instilled in me is,I think, core to understanding some of this. Hope. In the prisons I have been in (visiting of course), both in the UK and in Latin America there has been an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. Now of course I am not currently working in prisons, and this is based on what I have experienced in the past, but one of the counter moves I think we have as a Christian community is hope. We speak it, live it and even when we need a large portion of it ourselves we embrace it.
It is so easy for us to talk about hope in a Christian sense without the hopeless situation where it is forged and honed. I was reminded of King David’s hope as he found himself in some deep and desperate valleys of despair.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Hope is part of the plan, it’s an anchor that bites in deep when everything else seems to be pulling away. Letters of hope, words of encouragements, visits and intentionality. Imagine a men’s group that decide to visit men in prison with the chaplaincy team, just intentional about being a source of hope, writing and not forgetting. As a church we can think outside of what we know and do at the moment, and as agents of hope, we can see lives rescued and men discover Jesus, the true meaning of hope.
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Image Credit: Kalle K