Life and Death on the Edge in Beachy Head..prayer saves from Suicide

Reflecting on the life-giving power of art as we sat around the fire on Saturday, we also reflected on the number of suicides we’d heard about recently – the train from Slough was delayed that morning by someone throwing themselves in front of a train. The guard told me how frequent it was and added, ‘It’s when people stop thinking. Hope can no longer reach them. They think they have no choice left and death seems easier.’ So what stops people thinking and how do you start them thinking and seeing again?, we asked.

Sarah Fordham’s reply was to point to a really unusual chaplaincy she’d just heard about on Beachy Head.. a community of only 9 people who have started a chaplaincy at the top of a cliff, because they heard that up to 20 people a month commit suicide there. Since they’ve been praying there and patrolling the cliff top, things have been changing. Here’s a chart of the statistics of incidents over the last 6 years which involved an incredible 3,748 incidents and searches for missing persons.

It makes sobering but encouraging reading to see how they describe their searching for missing and despondant persons. Their prayer and a few well chosen words makes the difference between life and death.

Do we realise that as artists we can do the same for people, with prayer and art that brings hope through a vision of reality that shares the truth of suffering but does not leave it there?

People may not be missing persons, but they may be absent from their lives in other ways and great art can bring them back into contact with their true selves. They may not be on the edge of Beachy Head, but they may well be on the edge and we need to remain vigilant for others, for each other and for ourselves. I know people who have become accustomed to chronic sadness and have known times in my life when I thought that chronic anxiety was just a norm I needed to get used to. It isn’t. God came to bring us freedom – real freedom from every form of bondage. I know that prayer, art and fellowship have brought me to a place where I can genuinely say that anxiety now plays no role in my life at all. Praise God.

Artists have rather high casualty figures with regards to suicide so let’s keep up the prayer and the fellowship.

It does make a difference.

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