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: 80% of people who contemplate suicide give out signs that they are thinking about it. Notify the family, caregiver and/or doctor if appropriate. The following are some indications that a person may commit this act:
- A preoccupation with and/or writing about death or suicide
- Making final arrangements and giving away special possessions
- Avoiding commitments
- Sudden loss of interest in something that was once quite important
- Insomnia or sudden changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Dependence on alcohol and/or drugs
- Deep depression
- A recently experienced loss
- A sudden upturn in energy following a depression. Committing suicide takes energy, which people lack when they are severely depressed
THE 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.
Aftermath of a Suicide: When a loved one commits 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.