What happens to you if you choose to take your own life? That has been a heated debate in religious communities for decades and it’s one that’s starting to change
Churches in Stark County recently hit by multiple teen suicides are rethinking their position along with other religious establishments across the country.
“It is a really difficult topic and it’s been really really hard on the people of our church and our community,” said Rev. Timothy Shaw at Perry Baptist Church in Stark Country. Perry High School is just a few miles down the road from his place of worship.
Church is a place where some teens like Ally Temsey have turned to for answers.
“It’s upsetting because you know we’re walking the halls with fewer and fewer students each day,” she said.
But Temsey said right now, there’s a lot of confusion.
“Everybody is growing up with that heaven, hell situation, so I think a lot of them are confused as well, they don’t know that is happening or what’s going to happen if you take that choice,” she expressed.
That’s where Reverend Timothy Shaw and other pastors are stepping in.
“That idea of suicide being like the one sin that will automatically condemn you to hell, I think is born out of a bad understanding of scripture,” Rev. Shaw said.
He views church more like a hospital, focusing on the mental and emotional wellbeing of each person.
“People are understanding more and more that the human body is a whole being, you can’t separate the physical from the mental and emotional, and the scriptures teach us that, but we’ve somehow lost that.”
And he’s not alone, in 2012, The National Congregations study found 23 percent of the nation's houses of worship provided mental health programming, which is up from just 8 percent in 2006.
“We’re all in it together,” Rev Shaw said.
Still on the edge after losing six teens to suicide within the last month, High school Senior Temsey and
Freshman Riley Brown at Perry High School both say right now, more than ever their peers need hope.
“I know lots of kids, they're pretty depressed,” said Brown. And Temsey agreed. “Everybody is scared because they don’t know what news they’re going to hear next,” she said.
Rev. Shaw said some of the churches here in Stark county have already gotten together to discuss how they can better deal with the emotional and mental issues of their youth, and how to point them toward hope.