The pastor, congregational staff, ushers, etc. should be prepared to deal with a crisis with a person who has a mental illness just as they are prepared to deal with a crisis if someone has a seizure, a heart attack, has difficulties with diabetes, etc. When a crisis occurs because of the person’s behavior or actions, it is critical to take action. Failure to respond immediately can contribute to the deterioration of the person and, in some instances, can result in creating a threatening situation for the person or for others.
In some cases, hospitalization may be required to meet the person’s needs. Every state has its own laws pertaining to psychiatric hospitalization. The pastor should have this information available. This can be obtained from mental health or legal resources in the community. See the “Community and Its Resources” Section and the Appendix for more detailed information.
Suicide – The Warning Signs: These signs may mean someone is at risk for suicide. Risk is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss or change.
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
- Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
- Talking about a being a burden to others.
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings.
Suicide is Preventable. With Help Comes Hope
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE – 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is a 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. By dialing 1-800-273-TALK, the call is routed to the nearest crisis center in our national network of more than 150 crisis centers. The Lifeline’s national network of local crisis centers, provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals day and night. www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Aftermath of a Suicide: When a loved one dies by suicide, family and friends are devastated. Surviving family and friends can experience feelings of depression, grief, helplessness, spiritual distress, anger, guilt, hopelessness, fatigue, apathy, negativism, and anxiety. A pastor can assist those grieving for a loved one to grieve openly, to attend a support group such as a local chapter of the Compassionate Friends and to develop spiritual resources to help them deal with their loss.