Today we're talking with Yolanda Shanks, author of Destined to Live, Despite Me: Biblical Truths for Suicide Survivors
FQ: Let me start by saying thank you for this beautiful book. I know it will help a great many people, and it was an amazing collection of information from a person who truly knows the issues that cause people to lose hope.
Before I ask you questions about the book, may I ask you to tell our readers about your background, especially being a Bible study teacher?
Iíve had the awesome privilege of sharing Godís word in a bible study environment for approximately seven years and overall five years in a Sunday school setting. I love reading Godís word and sharing with others who are hungry for the word. In such a setting it allows dialogue with others regarding the development of intimacy in a one on one relationship with God.
FQ: Have you, in your teachings, come across a great many people who are desperate and desolate to the point of considering suicide?
Initially, no; no one had ever shared a desire to end it all, until after I published the book. Then many individuals began to approach me to share with me their previous thoughts and previous attempts. In each instance the common thread was that each of them would share with me the fact that they never felt comfortable in admitting such, prior to encountering the transparency of my testimony, from suicide to salvation and the biblical teachings in my book.
FQ: Being a suicide survivor yourself, can you tell readers, who have not yet read your book, how and what you did for yourself in order to persevere?
At a very young age after receiving the necessary counseling to eliminate suicide as a viable option, I made a conscious decision to accept Godís plan of salvation, allowing Him to love me back to wholeness. Even unto this day, I continually permit myself to see me as God sees me, fearfully and wonderfully made! This attitude preserves me and allows me to learn to love myself no matter what circumstances may enter into my life. In addition I continue to study the word of God - this helps me to walk daily in transparency to help others, which in turn, continues to purge unnecessary baggage within my life.
FQ: I agree that the teachings of the Lord - prayer - is a remarkable tool. However, sometimes it is virtually impossible to get another to believe when they are at their worst. How do you turn someone around?
Thank you for asking this question! In the book I talk about how someone took the time to minister to me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The order of the aid given unto me was extremely important to my becoming healthy again. This saidÖ I first refer individuals to a place to obtain professional help and once they are physically and emotionally healthy, then I am there to assist them spiritually in building a Godly foundation for deliberate living. I believe that listening is the key; we have to be extremely careful not to ďautomaticallyĒ assign a spiritual remedy off the bat. Example: someone tells you that they are hungry; you do not say lets pray about it. Instead you meet their physical need by feeding them, and then you have established a foundation to minister to their spiritual need. I strongly believe that there is an order to everything.
FQ: What do you feel are the key negative things coming from this globe today that worsen everyoneís life?
Every time you turn on the television, we are bombarded with destruction, financial calamities, hatred, loneliness, and abuse. Such negative forces continue to steal our joy and if we do not understand truth these things will keep us entangled in despair. People need hope and people need love, but donít know where to find it. Because I stood in this very position during the course of my quest for truth and healing it became necessary for me to find answers to questions like: why so much pain, and why do I feel this void? In the book I dedicated a whole chapter to this discussion to help others. I want everyone that I encounter to know that the Bible is Godís personal love letter to mankind. It is a road map to spending eternity with Him, and it provides us instruction for every area of life.
FQ: I am a proponent of the fact that loneliness is a huge problem. How do you feel about the social networking life we live in now? Where people are spending most of their hours and days staring at a computer instead of having real-life conversations?
In this wonderful age of technology, life has changed quite quickly in our society and we have been submerged almost instantaneously with online relationships. Now do not misunderstand me, because I love the hands on access to readily available information, however because God created us to be social beings; we have to have relationships and fellowship one with another face to face. Healthy balance is the key to everything. I believe that it is unhealthy to solely hide behind a computer and I feel that such behavior is a contributing factor to some of the issues that we are having today with depression. Everyone needs human interaction.
FQ: Will the struggle ever end for people who have survived? Or, is it always a constant that they could fall-back into feeling the hopelessness?
Struggles are a part of life. What matters most, is how we learn to respond to life struggles!
For anyone still considering suicide, first there has to be an elimination of this mindset as a workable alternative. Assistance is available by contacting a mental health professional or by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). For persons who have survived a previous attempt and no longer struggle with thoughts of suicide but continue to live under the guilt and shame associated with their past actions; I am here to say that there is freedom in Christ Jesus! It is time for you to build a spiritual foundation for deliberate living. Pick up my book, learn how to shake the unnecessary baggage and gladly receive the Lover of your soul who offers you hope, joy, and peace. For those who have not considered suicide but are trapped in feelings of constant negativity, pick up my book as well. We are a hurting generation and people who have been hurt tend to hurt others; letís chose to receive healing. I am living proof that one can overcome the battle with feelings of hopelessness to the point of despair!
FQ: Are you doing events, conferences, etc. with your book? Counseling others?
Yes, I have been privileged to participate in several speaking forums and am available for future speaking events and conferences regarding the book. As far as counseling, no; I leave the counseling to those who are certified.