All Posts by Dr. Phil Huggins

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called to thrive - car
Mar 04

Suicide Prevention: A Christian Standpoint

By Dr. Phil Huggins | Blog , Life

called to thrive - carSuicide prevention, while extremely important, appears to not be keeping pace with prevention of other injury related deaths. Of all the deaths by physical injury, the number one cause is suicide. One would think that auto accidents, accidental poisoning, or even more generic ‘accidental deaths’ would all have more deaths than suicide. Sadly however, there are many reasons why suicide is the leading cause of death by physical injury.

When I grew up, we had six kids in the back seat of a four door car. None were in child restraints nor wearing seatbelts. Today you need all of the above and then some. As a child an air bag was someone who talked too much. Today some cars have as many as ten airbags that deploy all over the car. Between the car itself being safer, safer roads, and safer practices by the occupants the death by auto accident has steadily decreased.

Along the same lines is the misdiagnosis of death by auto accident in terms of what is deemed a suicide. It is easier to believe that the driver lost control of the car and hit the tree than that he intentionally aimed at the tree. Some suicides are listed as auto accidents when in reality, they were more likely a suicide.

The same could be said of poisoning. With the labels on medicine today, it is difficult to overdose unless by intention. Yet, rather than list the death as suicide by overdose the cause of death is listed as drug overdose. Illegal drug users have often attempted suicide simply by overdosing.

So in fact the number of deaths by suicide is even higher than what the statistics can support. Why are so many taking their life? Depression, anxiety, loss of a dream, marriage difficulties and divorce, wayward children, financial strain,and loneliness come to mind, and the list could go on and on.

There are no clear signs about suicide, but especially in men as culture has taught men that they are not to show emotion. We are taught to simply solve a problem and when there is no solution, it appears that we have failed. When a man’s back is up against the wall, he can become potentially suicidal. At this point the best thing to do, the loving thing to do, is point blank ask “Are you considering the option of taking your life?”. It is better for all that he become upset at the question than for you to be silent and he proceed with the act. You will not put the thought in his head if it is not already there.

One might ask, if there are no clear signs, how does one know a friend or family member is suicidal? If you suspect, you ask. It is amazing how often people will be honest with this question. They are hurting. They are afraid. They need someone to show that they care. You may just talk your friend out of suicide simply by having him verbalize “Yes, I am thinking about taking my life.”

The second step you can take is getting your friend or family member help. A pastor or church counselor is a good starting point. For many this will be all that is needed. For others setting up regular counseling sessions with a Christian Counselor at a center like Grace Wellness Center will be needed to develop a mindset that is needed to overcome the current life situation. For any of these steps as a friend you may well have to make the contact and help your friend to get to the meeting. They may well be at a point where they cannot emotionally and intellectually make that call. You will have to do it for them.

In conclusion what am I saying is the key to suicide prevention? To simply walk with them. “One another” is a key phrase used throughout the entire Bible. From Genesis through Revelation , the idea of being alone is rejected. I need you and you need me. What a suicidal person needs more than anything else is to experience that (s)he is not alone. You are there. The ministry of presence is powerful.

called to thrive - international
Mar 04

Suicide Across Society and Cultures

By Dr. Phil Huggins | Blog , Life

called to thrive - international

Watching the TV news is depressing, but now I can’t even read the Newspaper! I started out my day be learning that people ages 35 to 64 (I land right in the middle) account for about 57 percent of suicides in the United States. The suicide rate among middle-aged (35-64 years old) Americans has climbed a startling 28 percent between 1999 and 2010. During the 11 year period studied, suicide went from the eighth leading cause of death among middle-aged Americans to the fourth, behind cancer, heart disease and accidents.
The trend was most pronounced among white men and women in that age group; their suicide rate jumped 40%. There was little change in younger and older people and middle-aged African Americans, Hispanics and most other racial and ethnic groups. According to the Associated Press, the reason for the increase is that caucasians do not have the same kind of church support and extended families that African Americans and Hispanics do.

After reading this article, one of our counselors Denise Pfhal shared: “This is true…I will never forget reading about a study done years ago in a small Mexican village… which confirms this report…they studied the village because there was virtually no evidence of mental illness (can you imagine this?)….the primary reason-large extended families of support and not only your own extended family, but your cousins extended family, and your neighbors extended families would also be there for support-not to mention the local church families! They had a “true” relational/functional community. Isolative communities lacking a spiritual rudder (hopelessness) define our current state of affairs…and the resulting rampant addiction and emotional disorders reflect this.”

Another theory for the increased suicide rate notes that white baby boomers have always had higher rates of depression and suicide, and that has held true as they’ve hit middle age. A third theory is the growing abuse of prescription painkillers over the past decade. Based on death certificates, perscription drug abuse leads to overdose and/or puts people in a frame of mind to attempt suicide by other means.

Whatever the cause, the end result is alarming! What is the church doing to impact this world in which we live? More important, what am I doing to impact this world? The Prince of Peace that offers a peace that passes comprehension must be introduced.

called to thrive - sorry
Mar 04

I Am Sorry Is Not Enough

By Dr. Phil Huggins | Blog , Life

called to thrive - sorry

I Am Sorry is Not Enough: Incorporating Genuine Apologies into Christian Counseling
“Real life involves real people who make real mistakes. Sometimes saying ‘I’m sorry’ just isn’t enough. The need for apologies impacts all human relationships.” This is the opening statement on the back cover of The Five Languages of Apology written by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas. They present five fundamental aspects or languages of an apology:

Expressing regret – “I am sorry”

Accepting Responsibility – “I was wrong”

Making Restitution – “What can I do to make it right?”

Genuinely Repenting – “I’ll try not to do that again”

Requesting Forgiveness – “Will you please forgive me?”

These five aspects gave me something to think about. Chapman and Thomas present the premise that often times when an apology is offered, it is not totally accepted because it does not speak the language of the hearer. I would like to present an alternative view. It is not the wrong aspect of an apology that causes it to not be accepted, but that the apology is incomplete. The apology is lacking one or more of the five aspects. An incomplete apology has the potential to do more harm than no apology as it is perceived and received as hypocrisy.

While the authors stressed learning your primary and secondary “language”, it seems to make more sense to practice using all five in all apologies. They even encourage using all five at different points. Rather than five unique languages of apology a better concept would be the complete apology which would include all five aspects. It would be hard not to accept an apology that states “I was wrong. I am sorry. I will try not to do that again. Will you please forgive me. What can I do to make it right?”

The problem is not that an apology did not speak the right language but that it is incomplete. In my college classes, I have often told a student that what they did was good, but they did not do enough or go far enough so they received a less than desirable grade. The same is true in an apology. Often what is offered is good but it does not go far enough so the response is less than desirable.

To offer an apology and not have it accepted is devastating for the individuals involved. The one who did wrong is desiring the relationship be restored; the wronged needs to be healed. When the healing does not happen because of an incomplete apology and the relationship is not restored due to a lack of acceptance, the result is bitterness and anger and resentment.

It would be interesting to see how many marriages and friendships would have been salvaged if a complete apology had been offered. How many apologies would have been accepted if a complete apology was offered?

The next time you make an apology. Make it complete. Let me know how it works. I have begun encouraging complete apologies in my counseling sessions. It is having an amazing positive response. Truth is truth so this should work in your life as well.