This September, make an effort to save a life

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 15, 2018

By R.A. Mathews


He’s an obscure character in the Bible, mentioned just a few times. I suspect you’ve never heard of him, but Ahithophel (pronounced uh-HITH-uh-fel) was quite famous during his lifetime. Scripture tells us that advice from Ahithophel was like getting guidance from God. It was that accurate.

Here’s the simple verse. “The advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God.”2 Samuel 16:23 NIV

Such wisdom landed Ahithophel the job of royal advisor. He lived about 1,000 years before Christ, serving King David for two decades.

Nevertheless, when David’s son Absalom turns on the king, Ahithophel knows the younger man can take his father. Ahithophel throws his lot in with David’s son who then seizes the throne.

That’s when things get sticky.

Ahithophel advises the new king that his father must be pursued immediately and killed. It was good instruction, but the conflicted king takes the advice of another, one who’d been King David’s closest confidant. Instead, he waits.

Ahithophel apparently realizes the rebellion is now doomed. He immediately returns to his home, puts his affairs in order, and ends his life. 2 Samuel 17:1-23

This Saturday begins National Suicide Prevention Month. Last week, I wrote of a man unexpectedly saved from jumping to his death by two Good Samaritans. On average, there are 123 suicides per day in America. That’s according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention which states: “Suicide claims more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined.”

Worse yet, the Foundation says that for every person who succeeds in taking his or her life, there are another 25 who try and fail.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida’s suicide rate rose 10.6 percent from 1999 to 2016; Alabama’s increase was 21.9 percent; and North Dakota had the highest rise at a staggering 57.6 percent.

Nationwide, in the 15-34 age bracket, suicide is the second leading cause of death.

Officer Kevin Briggs, assigned to patrol the Golden Gate Bridge for nearly two decades, offers us valuable advice. During his tenure, Briggs saved 200 people. He lost two and says at least 1,500 have jumped from the tragic landmark since it was built in 1937.

Briggs recalls going into “cop mode” shortly after he was assigned to the bridge. He saw a woman standing on the ledge and warned that she was trespassing and might fall. The idea that she wanted to die hadn’t occurred to him.

What happened?

Briggs says the woman felt sorry for his flustered attempt to help her. She came back off the ledge so he wouldn’t “look so bad.”

Briggs ultimately developed a plan: He learned to approach slowly, ask how the person was feeling, inquire about their goals for tomorrow, and then help each create a plan.

Briggs’ most celebrated case is Kevin Berthia. Berthia actually jumped when Briggs approached, but then caught himself on a pipe. Briggs stayed with the man for an hour and a half.

“He had a lot of things going on in his life,” the officer said. “All he was looking for was someone to listen to him.”

Berthia is now the father of two and an advocate for suicide prevention, speaking alongside Briggs.

Help is available 24/7 at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline:


Because that number isn’t easy to remember, President Trump just signed a law aimed at creating a 3-digit number for the hotline—something easy like 911. That important news was lost amid August’s political upheaval.

The hotline isn’t only for those who are suicidal. Anyone concerned for a friend or loved one is encouraged to call.

Share that number. Ask that it be posted at work, placed in the church bulletin, or even taped to the wall of a restaurant or store. Join the annual September Walk for Darkness in your community, emphasizing the need for more suicide-prevention funding. If you have a youth group, take the kids through a call. Explain what the hotline counselor will say and ask; just making the call can be scary.

Ahithophel, deemed to be as wise as God, took his life. Suicide can strike anyone anywhere.

This September, make an effort to save a life.

© 2018 R.A. Mathews The Rev. R. A. Mathews is a national freelance columnist, attorney, and the author of “Reaching to God: Great Truths from the Bible.” Follow her on Twitter @ReachingToGod.