The 40th annual national Suicide Prevention Week, Challenging our Assumptions and Moving Forward Together, is September 7-13, 2014. This week is held the Sunday through Saturday surrounding the World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10th. Various events and activities are held to raise awareness that suicide is a major preventable cause of premature death. For information and educational resources, visit http://www.suicidology.org/resources/nspw
Mental Health Ministries has added a new section with resources on spirituality/faith and suicide to the Resource list on our website. Some of the resources lifted up in this e-Spotlight are included. We encourage you or your faith community to share your resources with us so that together we can provide helpful tools to educate and support those affected by suicide.
The Mental Health Ministries DVD, Stories of Healing and Hope: PTSD, Trauma and Suicide, includes three shows: Out of the Ashes: Transforming Trauma, PTSD: Healing and Hope and Suicide and Healing After the Death of a Loved One. The show, Suicide: Healing After the Death of a Loved One features an inspirational couple who lost their son to suicide. They share the story of how their faith community supported them and how they have used their painful experience to reach out to others. This DVD is available on the Mental Health Ministries website. Click here to see a flyer with details on this resource and information on how to order.
More than 36,000 people in the United States die by suicide every year. It is this country's 10th leading cause of death. Among youth aged 15 to 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death. Our faith communities can be a place to talk openly about suicide, to provide education on recognizing the signs and symptoms and a place to offer care and support for persons touched by suicide.
The prayer and support of our family of faith helped us survive after losing our son to suicide 7 years ago. Our grief was their grief because Todd was a vital member of this faith community. They felt his absence in ways that validated our sorrow. This loving community helped us navigate a journey we had never planned to take. They stood by us as our question shifted from “Why?” to “For what purpose? What now?” Our faith community was instrumental in helping my husband and I see God at work within our tragedy, redeeming some of our pain. They gave us courage to keep trusting God.
The brochure, How Faith Communities Can Provide Hope and Promote Healing includes suicide facts and figures, risk factors and warning signs, what you can do as an individual and faith communities can promote healing. It is available as a free download on our website. It is also available in Spanish.
According to some studies, depression afflicts between 6% and 12% of American high school students. Depression in children and adolescents is easily missed unless parents, teachers, and medical personnel recognize its signs and symptoms. Without the ability to recognize these symptoms, the first inkling a parent may have of the severity of a child's illness is the tragedy of a completed suicide. Families and professionals review symptoms and recommend appropriate actions to take when it is suspected that a child or adolescent is at risk. The full show is available on the Mental Health Ministries DVD set, Mental Illness and Families of Faith: How Congregations Can Respond. A short clip excerpted from the complete show is on You Tube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDImUMPGV5U
Fierce Goodbye: Living in the Shadow of Suicide is a documentary produced by Mennonite Media in 2004, www.fiercegoodbye.com. In this video, family members reveal their intimate stories and aching pain to assist other survivors to help the broader community understand the unique and terrible grief of suicide. This documentary explores Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Greek Orthodox responses to suicide. Judy Collins is the narrator and Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison is one of the persons interviewed. There is a study guide and other helps for faith leaders available at http://www.fiercegoodbye.com/?S=5.
This series of short videos, produced by Interfaith Network on Mental Illness (INMI) Caring Clergy Project, is written specifically for clergy and staff of faith communities. Learn how to recognize risk factors and warning signs of suicide, how to tell if a person is considering suicide and how to respond if you discover they are. You'll also learn how to respond to families after a suicide and how to plan a memorial service for someone who has died by suicide. View these videos on You Tube on the Caring Clergy Project website.
Video 1: Warning Signs and Risk Factors for Suicide
In this video, we discuss the warning signs and risk factors for suicide that you, as a member of the clergy, may notice in congregants who come to you for counseling.
Video 2: How to Tell if a Person is Considering Suicide
In this video, we talk about how you ask someone if they are having thoughts of suicide.
Video 3: Responding to a Suicidal Person
In this video, we will talk about how to intervene with a suicidal person with CARE, steps to take when the individual needs help beyond what you alone can provide and some basic do’s and don’t’s. We will also offers tips on how to offer spiritual resources.
Video 4: Aftermath: Responding to Family Members After a Suicide
In this video we will discuss the grief experience of family members of a person who has died by suicide and offers some do’s and don’t’s for reaching out to them. We’ll also talk briefly about appropriate language to use when discussing suicides.
Video 5: Aftermath: Designing a Service for a Person Who Has Died by Suicide
This video offers some ideas for designing a funeral or memorial service for someone who has died by suicide. It also includes a list of do’s and don’t’s for reducing the chance of suicide contagion. A memorial service, no matter how the person died, should be a time for healing and remembrance. It is not a time for judging.
The Role of Faith Communities in Preventing Suicide: A Report of an Interfaith Suicide Prevention Dialogue is the report from the Interfaith Suicide Prevention Dialogue convened by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center in 2008. It contains ideas for engaging faith communities in suicide prevention and developing interfaith suicide prevention initiatives, as well as the perspectives on suicide of five major religions practiced in the United States…Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity. The report addresses the common themes among these religions. The section on Christianity looks specifically at The Black Christian Church, the Catholic Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The United Methodist Church. This PDF file is available for download on the MHM website, or by clicking here.
The purpose of this guidebook is to prepare leaders of faith communities to prevent, intervene and respond to the tragedy of suicide. The concept for this guidebook grew out of an increasing understanding that suicide affects a significant number of people in all walks of life and that people often turn to their faith communities in times of crisis. Knowing how to respond in the moment of a suicidal crisis can be an anxiety-provoking experience. We hope to provide a guide to help alleviate this anxiety by providing knowledge, preparation and support within the context of a community. The Role of Faith Communities in Suicide Prevention: A Guidebook for Faith Leaders is a product of a publication of the Carson J Spencer Foundation with support from Regis University and Jefferson Unitarian Church. The authors give permission for appendices at the end of the book to be copied and used freely by the readers in their faith community settings. This PDF file is available for download on the MHM website, or by clicking here.
We know that faith communities can be a valuable resource in helping to increase public awareness about suicide and how to reduce the number of persons who take their life each year. This PDF file, from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC), provides helpful resources and other information to address suicide prevention as a faith community leader. This PDF file is available for download on the MHM website, or by clicking here.
This brief guide was created by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center to aid faith community leaders and other community leaders. It provides background information, suggests ways to care for and support survivors, and offers recommendations for planning a memorial observance. This PDF file is available for download on the MHM website, or by clicking here.
Depression and related illnesses threaten to wreck the lives of many teens and their families. Suicide driven by these illnesses is one of the top killers of young people. How do teens become depressed? What does depression feel like? How can we identify it? What helps depressed teens? What hurts them? How do families cope with teen depression?
In A Relentless Hope, Dr. Gary Nelson uses his experience as a pastor and pastoral counselor to guide the reader through an exploration of these and many other questions about depression in teens. He's worked with many teens over the years offering help to those confronted by this potentially devastating illness. The author also uses the story of his own son's journey through depression to weave together insights into the spiritual, emotional, cognitive, biological, and relational dimensions of teen depression. The book is written for those without formal clinical training, so it appeals to teens, parents, teachers, pastors, and any who walk with the afflicted through this valley of the shadow of death. Through careful analysis, candid self-revelation, practical advice, and even humor, this pastor, counselor, and father, reminds us God's light of healing can shine through the darkness of depression and offer hope for struggling teens and their families.
Gary also has an educational video to use with teenagers, “Teen Depression & Suicide: Teens Surviving the Storm,” about depression and suicide.
In the aftermath of three suicides in his community over a relatively short period, Fe Anam Avis co-founded the Community Response Team and discovered his life's purpose in the area of suicide prevention. In A SECOND DAY: A HOPEFUL JOURNEY OUT OF SUICIDAL THINKING the author asserts that suicide is a community problem that can only be addressed by the community. "A central theme of this book that threads through every chapter is that suicidal thinking is often a response to a benighted Soul, struggling to find authentic expression in communities that are hostile or indifferent to its existence. The Soul has a voice that will not be denied and a wisdom that is sound. As we begin to give dignity to that wisdom, we can redirect the suicidal impulse to its more constructive purpose: transformation." This book is available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Second-Day-Hopeful-Suicidal-Thinking/dp/0978785037
For many individuals, spirituality and faith are necessary to achieving and maintaining recovery. Therefore, faith leaders are essential community partners in inspiring and assisting people with mental and/or substance use disorders in their recovery process. Every September, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (http://www.samhsa.gov), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) (http://www.hhs.gov), sponsors National Recovery Month to increase awareness of behavioral health conditions. This celebration promotes the message that behavioral health is essential to health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people recover.
The 25th annual Recovery Month theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Speak Up,Reach Out,” encourages people to openly discuss mental and substance use disorders and the reality of recovery. It aims to foster public understanding and acceptance of behavioral health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or addictions, including ways that faith leaders can speak up in their communities and reach out to offer support.
Faith leaders play key roles in promoting recognition of behavioral health issues so that people living with mental and/or substance use disorders realize they are not alone. By incorporating more frequent messages about the reality of recovery from mental and substance use disorders at services or in conversations, faith leaders may spark self-awareness for someone struggling with an issue or promote broader acceptance by the spiritual community.
For more information visit the National Recovery Month website.
A free downloadable toolkit from SAMHSA is available.
Addiction and Depression shares how addiction to alcohol and/or drugs often masks an underlying depression. The link between addiction and depression can cause a downward spiral leading to severe health problems, especially suicide. Three persons share their stories of addiction and depression that end in recovery. The full show is available on the Mental Health Ministries DVD set, Mental Illness and Families of Faith: How Congregations Can Respond. A short clip is available on our DVD, Mental Health Mission Moments DVD. Our videos are available on You Tube and links are available in our Resource section on the website. Use this link to go directly to You Tube.
The NAMI 2014 convention will be held in Washington, D.C., September 3-6. Having the NAMI National Convention in Washington, D.C. affords NAMI advocates the chance to educate their Congressional delegations about issues related to mental illness.
The NAMI FaithNet group will have several offerings including a time for networking, a session on Faith Communities – Healing Places in a Hurting World, a poster display and an interfaith service. To register for this convention, visit www.nami.org/convention
Authors Shelly Beach and Wanda Sanchez offer meditations and practical hope from the Christian tradition through biblical expressions of lament and God's relentless, unconditional love for persons who are hurting. Millions of women in the United States battle with after-effects of suffering so great they’ve developed post-traumatic stress disorder—the same suffering experienced by soldiers who’ve gone through war. Sexual and physical abuse, catastrophic accidents, abandonment, natural disasters, invasive medical procedures, and many other painful and overwhelming events can trigger symptoms they are little equipped to deal with and hard-pressed to recognize.
Love Letters from the Edge provides a voice for those struggling to express this pain and reveals intimate encouragement for those in desperate need to hear God’s words of love and deliverance. This heartfelt devotional focuses on the profound laments in the book of Psalms. Each meditation begins with a letter from someone in the throes of despair and then offers a tender response to their pain from God’s perspective. Available on Amazon.
Monica Coleman, Associate Professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religions, Claremont School of Theology has shared her own experiences in her book, Not Alone: Reflections on Faith and Depression. She has an article in the Huffington Post on four black church traditions that can create a helpful climate for people living with depression and for anyone who cares about mental health. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/monica-a-coleman/4-black-church-resources-_b_5547414.html
For other information on African American resources from NAMI’s Multicultural Resources Center, click here.
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The Rock That Weeps
My husband and I visited Bryce and Zion national parks this summer. With the heat of the summer before the monsoon rains, I was surprised at the places in Zion National Park where water was coming out of rock walls. I learned that centuries of pressure squeezed deposited mud into thin shale layers and compressed the sand into thick sandstone layers. Water passes easily through sandstone but not the shale. Rain and snow falling on the plateau above soak into the sandstone. When the water reaches the shale, it moves sideways to emerge from the cliff as a spring. The spring water offers nourishment that allows plant life to thrive on the sheer rock face.
Sometimes it feels like the pressures of life squeeze us to a point that we feel overwhelmed. I lost my father this summer. I tend to hold emotions inside and it is hard for me to cry. I was surprised that something totally unrelated to my father would cause me to weep…sometimes in public.
Many people in our culture are uncomfortable with grief, mourning and knowing what to say when someone is experiencing loss, depression and despair. Too often persons utter hurtful platitudes instead of simply offering the ministry of presence. I feel blessed by true friends who offer the assurance that my tears will emerge in time as springs of water offering healing, hope and new life. I pray that each of us can “be” that presence for those who are suffering in mind, body or spirit.
Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder
Coordinator of Mental Health Ministries
6707 Monte Verde Dr.
San Diego, CA 92119