94–95: Suicide

Suicide affects all of us, and involves so many devastating emotions. Grief (as one of the panelists refers to it, a very “complicated” form of grief), guilt (“What did I do wrong?” “I should have seen signs and intervened”), and, often, an element of concern for the deceased’s soul state (“Can they ever be forgiven?” “Were they accountable when they did this?”).

In this two-part episode, panelists Natasha Helfer Parker, Charn Burton, and Nicholas Maughn join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon in an thorough discussion of  suicide—offering education about its primary causes (what to look for if the person has given subtle clues about her or his intentions, how to best serve and be present for loved ones of the person who died, its many ripple effects pertaining to marriages and other relationships, survivor’s own mental health, etc.)—confronting bad information, cultural attitudes, and harmful theology, and suggesting helpful and healing notions about God and the type of universe in which we live. The discussion concerns all aspects of suicide and is conscious of the phenomena as a whole, but in the second part especially speaks directly to particular Mormon teachings—the hopeful ones as well as the ones that deserve being confronted and sent into oblivion. This is a very personal episode with powerful things in it for every person.

We look forward to your joining in the conversation below.


Links and Helps:

Elder M. Russell Ballard, “Suicide: Some Things We Know, and Some We Do Not” (Ensign, October 1987)

The Mormon Therapist (Mental Health and Straight Talking about Difficult Subjects blog by panelist Natasha Helfer Parker)

The Trevor Project (Crisis and suicide prevention organization especially for LGBTQ youth)

Suicide Hotlines you can call when you’re in crisis or are with someone in crisis

Fundraising for Suicide Prevention through community walks



28 comments for “94–95: Suicide

  1. Lizanell Boman
    May 2, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Thank you so much for this wonderful podcast Dan!!

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      May 2, 2012 at 2:41 pm

      Thank YOU for inspiring it and brainstorming with me, and especially for suggesting Nic’s participation. Powerful person. So pleased he was part of this discussion!

  2. Nicholas Maughan
    May 2, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    it was an honor to be able to participate in the discussion.

  3. Jeralee
    May 3, 2012 at 9:28 am

    I LOVED this podcast.  I was a little cautious going in with the given title, but I found myself riveted!  What a fabulous panel. 
    Charn Burton, what an inspiration you are to me!  I felt so many emotions, and was deeply drawn to the personal experiences you shared, and your wisdom, and how you reach out and help others.  Just Beautiful!
    Nicholas Maughn, sharing your own story and your input on helping others was very touching to me.
    Dan, my friend, big thank you for this one. What a great group you gathered, and I seriously was not ready for this one to end, it brought such a feeling of love and how we can take our own experiences in life that are often painful, and use those experiences to love others in a very personal way!
    Everyone needs to listen to this podcast! <3

    • Charnburton
      May 3, 2012 at 8:58 pm

      Thank you so much Jeralee. Your comments touched me deeply whereas I never know if I am making a difference. I am blessed that this podcast made a difference to you. I loved sharing with Nik and Natasha, and you just made it worth all! Thanks again….HUGS!

    • Nicholas Maughan
      May 4, 2012 at 6:10 pm


      I’ve always believed we are called to share our honest stories with each other.  We can all learn so much, build bridges, and come more clearly to the message the we are all named Child of God.

      I’m happy that you feel that everyone needs to listen to this podcast!  I do, too.  You’ve listened, now it;s your turn to share.

      Bless you!


  4. Jenn
    May 3, 2012 at 10:43 am

    I sure do adore that talk on “Some things we know” and have referenced it a lot in recent years, since a good friend of mine is bipolar and struggling with guilt for harm she has done or wants to do to herself. Thanks for a great podcast!

  5. Charnburton
    May 3, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Dan, thank you for asking me to be a part of this wonderful podcast….Mormon Matters! what a great service and outreach you give to so many! I deeply appreciate you going forward with the topic of suicide. I am very passionate about this, but hope that those who listened to this podcast, might have learned something from what Nikolas, Natasha or myself brought to the table.. it was a privilege to be a guest on this show,,,,and more-so, you just converted a new fan…ME! Thanks again, what a wonderful host and gentleman you are! Blessings!

  6. Debbie
    May 5, 2012 at 7:57 am

    Thanks so much to everyone on this panel and to Dan for putting it together.  I’m still not finished with the second part but I have to say that the stories and information has made a shift in my consciousness.  I felt so touched by Charn’s experience when they did her son’s temple work.  I just wanted to hug God and thank him for his tender mercies. Also, the experience of Charn’s friend whose son killed himself without a warning made me think of a similar experience in my family. While the friend’s husband was writhing in pain, the mother was overcome with a great sense of peace that her son was okay and God was taking care of him.  This happened to my parents many years ago when their 15 month old son died from being run over by a car.  My mother told me that as they drove back home from Utah Valley Hospital, a great sense of peace came over them and they felt the spirit of the Savior in the car with them giving them comfort.  

    Charn, when you talked about the kind of insanity that comes with grief it reminded me of Elizabeth Edwards book “Resilience”.  She recounts in detail the grief she suffered after the death of her son Wade and the craziness that it brought.  She told about irrationally thinking that she couldn’t go out because Wade might come home while she was gone and he wouldn’t have a way to get into the house. She wrote about feeling an urge to look for him everywhere, behind closed doors, in closets and even in drawers.  I don’t cry easily, but her book made me collapse in tears.  

    I just want to let all of you know that, after listening to this podcast, I want to love my family more.  I want to love them for who they are and not for who I want them to be.  Thanks to all of you for this beautiful and important podcast.  

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      May 5, 2012 at 8:50 am

      One of my favorite posts in all MM history, Debbie! Thank you! 

  7. Em1919
    May 7, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Thank you so much for this podcast, it was honestly so enlightening.  I especially appreciated the part on advice for what to say/do and what not to say to family members of those who have taken their lives.  I have an acquaintance who recently lost her partner in an unexpected and tragic way, although not suicide, and I find myself not knowing what to say to her… I think the advice in this would likely apply in her situation as well- Next time I see her I am going to bring up times that I enjoyed with her partner and fun memories I have.

    The panel was so great, I love Nic’s emphasis on “God is Love,” I am really trying to focus my energy lately on remembering that 🙂

  8. Em1919
    May 7, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    Oh, and one more thing… Dan, where can I find more information about progressing between degrees being part of early church teachings?  I have always personally believed that the God I feel I know would allow for that so I am very interested in learning more.  Thanks!

  9. efrain
    May 9, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    This is a very good podcast!!

  10. May 10, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Thank you to all of those on the panel and to Dan for all the work that goes into a podcast.  I enjoyed this podcast and learned so much about suicide and how it effects all of us.  
    Thank you to all of you for opening up and sharing those thoughts and feelings with us.

  11. Nicholas Maughan
    May 10, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    To Dan and Charn and Natasha and everyone who has listened to the podcast,

    I’m commenting to inform everyone that I’ve received news of two more Utah teens who took their lives this week.  One of these teens was known to be a Latter-Day Saint and gay.  I don’t wish to make this podcast and LGBTQ rights/activism forum.  

    Please, please, please, if there are members of your wards and stake who don’t fit in, for whatever real or perceived reason, follow the example of this wonderful woman who sent an e-mail my way:

    There’s a young girl in my ward who is struggling, I’m not sure with what.  I skip Sunday School sometimes and sit with this girl in the foyer and we hold our own Sunday School.  She has told me she’s scared to see the bishop because what she has to tell him will change his mind about her and she is sure her place in the church will be changed forever.  Sound familiar at all?  So we chat, I accept her, I treat her as the amazing child of God she is, and I keep the judgment and fear out of the conversation.  Surely everyone in the church can learn to do that – one person at a time.   I saw a quote the other day.  “I used to wonder why somebody didn’t do something about that.  Then I realized I am somebody.”  Just with any change, big or small, it has to start with me.  Show up, be open, be loving, be genuine, and be ready.
    Whether you know it or not, you really are somebody’s SOMEBODY.  You might save a life that definitely needs to be lived.

    With love and prayers,


    • Natasha Parker
      May 12, 2012 at 9:14 am

      I am so incredibly saddened to hear this.

  12. Amberly
    May 27, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful podcast…I am a long time listener and always come away with new insights after listening. The panelists were very good at addressing this difficult topic. I would be interested in a podcast about Mormonism and grief…

    Great job.

  13. Gardnera
    June 24, 2012 at 7:18 am

    I find the podcasts enjoyable but frustrating because I read quickly and have difficulty listening. If that makes sense.

    I have experienced suicide from both angles. The agony of a child’s suicide and the desire to end my own life.

    I do not believe we are damned if we end our lives. I believe there are times when if honestly seems the only solution. I know it hurts the ones we leave behind. I also know life’s anguish can be impossible to face one more minute.

    I have no solutions and I haven’t listened–yet. I will. I experienced something the last time I attempted suicide that I (hope) will prevent further attempts, but I don’t judge anyone who feels that despair. Nor do I dismiss the pain survivors endure.

    Life is incredibly hard.

  14. diane
    July 2, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    I don’t have the ability to listen to the pod cast.  However, I just wanted to add one of the best thing as a group of people, specifically as it relates to LDS people is to stop telling people and family members of those who suffer with mental health illness is that they are filled with Satan.  This is hurtful language, I sat and listen to a woman who gave a beautiful testimony about how much better she felt with having the Gospel in her life with the passing of her son from pancreatic cancer as oppose to how she felt with the passing of her son who committed suicide.    some nitwit sister interrupted this sister to tell her that her son was filled with Satan (i tried to get her to shut up, she didn’t take the hint) she further harassed both this sister and me at home with a phone call to support her theory with scripture.

    mental health issues are brain chemical imbalances and I wish church leaders would start teaching this as well.

  15. Charisse Coles
    July 20, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    Thank you for talking about such a difficult topic.  I have a cousin who took his own life and I deal with suicidal ideations continually.  I am in therapy, on medications and try to find comfort in the gospel, but life is just difficult. So to hear this discussion was enlightening and I look forward to listening to more podcasts in the future.  Thank you all for taking your time to share your thoughts.  You are doing excellent work in your communities.

  16. Liz Johnson
    July 31, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    I’m just now listening to the podcast (sorry, I’m way behind!), but it is absolutely beautiful.  Thank you so much for putting it together.

    It was briefly alluded to in the first segment, but is there any way to do a MM podcast on grief, particularly through an LDS lens?  Balancing grief with forgiveness, the Atonement, and Mormon culture is a lot trickier than I realized.  And when I thought of this, I also thought of Molly Jackson, whose daughter died a few years ago. Molly also runs agoodgrief.com – she might be a good person to have on the panel if she’s willing.  

  17. A woman
    August 12, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    I personally came very close to suicide here a few months ago. No details necessary. Just wanted to mention that I went to see my bishop that week. I did not tell him what was going on, just that I was having some terrible struggles, something he already knew from prior conversations. His response was to lecture me, to let me know how I was failing in my life and just how unacceptable that was. Thank God for my old home teacher. He came to my home a couple of days later telling me that when he said his prayers that night, God told him I was in trouble and what he needed to do to help me. His actions saved my life. They gave me the space to regroup and let me know that God was watching over me.
    The bishop, quite frankly I will never speak to him again. I honestly feel it would be better not to have bishops if we cannot get better men than I have seen. 

    • nielper
      August 13, 2012 at 6:39 am

      I’m glad you were able to get help from your home teacher.  I never take my problems to my Bishop.  He is not trained as a therapist and he’s too busy managing the ward.  Professionally trained people are always the best place to go.    

      I hope you are doing better. <3

  18. Anonymous
    October 15, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    Thank you for this. One of my parents took their own life last week, and I needed this so much to help process the experience. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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