A note from the Rev. Bob Dell, Sr. Advisor, Pathways to Promise.
In the Chicago Tribune for Wednesday, August 13, Mary Schmich wrote in her column, regarding the suicide of Robin Williams – “On Monday, my Facebook feed quickly filled with people talking about their own depression or the mental health struggles of their friends and family, pleading with others to reach out for help”. I am confident that more than one person ineach of our congregations has, in some way, felt the pain of the loss of aloved one through suicide and this tragedy rubs raw that wound. Even ifyou did not make mention of suicide last Sunday, there is still time; themedia are still giving this subject much coverage, and there is still a needfor a voice from within the faith community. Many of us will find it hard todeal with as part of Sunday worship, but, one need not devote the entiresermon. There will be those in the pew who are in pain and a simpleacknowledgment can help break the ice, as it were. As part of a pastoral prayer, in words something like this:“Compassionate God, we ask your support for friends and loved ones who have lost someone who has taken his/her own life. For those who have feltthere was no other course open to them we give thanks for yourunquestioning love and acceptance”.Seldom have we seen so much coverage of a mental illness issue in printand TV which means that our congregants can hardly not notice thistragedy. Some will want, simply, to be better informed. Some will want helpin dealing with their own pain or that of a loved one. This is agentle pleading not ignore this issue. It doesn’t mean you have to devotethe entire sermon; for many that we simply acknowledge what hashappened is enough. Helpful on several levels would be to post theVeterans Administration tool on a bulletin board and call attention to it – ormake copies available for people to take.On the next page is the VA piece and a link to the good ten ways tounderstand suicide from Survivors of Suicide.When my brother-in-law took his life (1958) suicide was hush-hush. Wehave come a long way. Let us hope this current tragedy results in better understanding, better treatment – including more open support in our churches.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs
Here are some ways to be helpful to someone who is threatening suicide or engaging in suicidal behaviors: • Be aware – learn the risk factors and warning signs for suicide and where to get help • Be direct – talk openly and matter-‐of-‐factly about suicide, what you have observed, and what your concerns are regarding his/her well-‐being • Be willing to listen – allow expression of feelings, accept the feelings, and be patient • Be non-‐judgmental – don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong or whether the person’s feelings are good or bad; don’t give a lecture on the value of life • Be available – show interest, understanding, and support • Don’t dare him/her to engage in suicidal behaviors. • Don’t act shocked • Don’t ask “why” • Don’t be sworn to secrecy • Offer hope that alternatives are available – but don’t offer reassurances that any one alternative will turn things around in the near future. • Take action – remove lethal means of self-‐harm such as pills, ropes, firearms, and alcohol or other drugs • Get help from others with more experience and expertise • Be actively involved in encouraging the person to see a mental health professional as soon as possible and ensure that an appointment is made. Individuals contemplating suicide often don’t believe that they can be helped, so you may have to be active and persistent in helping them to get the help they need. And, after helping a friend, family member, or patient during a mental health crisis, be aware of how you may have been affected emotionally and seek the necessary support for yourself.
Understanding Suicide (from local chapter of Survivors of Suicide) Chicago Tonight/WTTW -‐ video discussion on Depression, re: Robin Williams
plus information from the National Institute of Mental Health: depression