Suicide reduction and forgiveness. By Michael Hempseed

  • 7 March 2019

When we think about suicide prevention, we think of crisis intervention, medication, counselling and reducing access to lethal means. Why don’t we think about forgiveness? Research strongly shows that forgiveness can be an important step to reducing suicide.  The article Forgiveness, depression, and suicidal behavior among a diverse sample of college students shows how important this can be in reducing suicide.

The article is available online here

The researchers looked at 158 college students, they measured their level of depressive symptoms, suicidal behaviour and forgiveness. They examined three types of forgiveness, forgiveness of self, others and by God.

They factored out the effects of depression and found that forgiveness in all three categories was associated with lower depressive and suicidal symptoms. Forgiveness of self had the largest effect size.

There are numerous other articles that show that forgiveness is an effective tool in battling mental illness and suicidal behaviour. This paper suggests that those who are better at forgiving live longer[1].

Lewis B. Smedes said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Anger is a very destructive emotion, forgiveness offers freedom from that. There are many myths around forgiveness; some people think that if, for example, you are raped, then forgiving the person means that you don’t need to press charges. This is not the case at all, you can forgive and see that justice is served to prevent the person from hurting someone else. Forgiveness means letting go of your anger and hatred to that person or people.

Given the devastating consequences of suicide upon society we must use every possible tool we have. Forgiveness should be used in clinical and therapeutic settings. This research must be more widely distributed and used.


Hirsh, J., Webb, J., & Jaglic, E. (2011). Forgiveness, depression, and suicidal behavior among a diverse sample of college students. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 67(9), 896-906.

Michael Hempseed is the author of Being a True Hero: Understand and Preventing Suicide in Your Community. The book is available on Amazon and Kindle.


[1] Toussaint, L. L., Owen, A. D., & Cheadle, A. (2012). “Forgive to live: Forgiveness, health, and longevity.” Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 35(4), 375-386.

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