The United Church of Christ Mental Health Network is blessed to have Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe, author of The Lifesaving Church: Faith Communities and Suicide Prevention, as a board member and our vice-chair. We have compiled some of her videos, along with other resources for suicide prevention awareness. The UCC MHN hopes and prays that you will find the resources useful and helpful as we continue to navigate our current way of life with COVID-19. September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
By Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe
Here is a list of some things you can be doing right now:
- Increase your knowledge about mental illness and suicide prevention. NAMI is a great source for mental health information and AFSP is a good place to learn more about suicide prevention.
- Create small groups of active members and friends of your congregation with a designated leader. The leader would be responsible for making sure each small group member is contacted each week. This can be done via Zoom or another platform, emails, texts, phone calls, or letters. In the congregation I serve, small groups have lessened the burden for congregational care teams.
- Consider creating interest groups for building kinship. These groups would meet online monthly (or weekly if there is interest). The topics of the groups can vary from book clubs to hobbies. There is no limit if people are willing to share their skills, interests, and hobbies.
- Ask your pastor to host a weekly online gathering time for folx to check-in. There’s no specific topic, just a time to talk with each other.
- Identify any people who might be particularly vulnerable during the pandemic and make sure they are connected to the community. Make sure to note those who live alone and might be feeling isolated, elders living in care settings who are not able to have in-person visits, those who live with ongoing mental health challenges, and those who are struggling with physical health conditions. There may be circumstances in your community that increase the risk for mental health conditions for a particular population (e.g. farmers, factory workers, those who are furloughed or unemployed due to COVID-19). Be sure to include these people on your list for additional outreach.
- Include local resources for mental health care in your church newsletter.
- Online support groups can be started for people experiencing an increase in mental health challenges.
- Online support groups can also be started for those experiencing grief or loss.
- Explore the possibility of getting connective technology to those who don’t have it. For example, can simple tablets be donated or purchased for those who don’t have a smartphone? Are there internet providers in your area offering free or reduced-price services for those in need?
- Name mental health struggles in prayers during worship. It is as important as ever to break the stigma and silence surrounding mental illness.
Contributed by board member and vice-chair of the UCC MHN, Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe as published at Luther Seminary’s Faith+Lead.
My Thoughts: Suicide Prevention Awareness
By: Rev. Shernell J. Edney Stilley
Griffin is 48. Working virtually from home and only part-time for the past two months. He is sitting in the doctor’s office and filling out the paperwork needed to inform the office of why he came in today. He feels fine in general and just wants a “clean bill of health” so that he can go on with his day. Yes, he’s irritable but that’s because coming to the Doctor takes SO much time out of his day. Besides, his spouse made him come and he thinks it’s a waste of time. Aside from some stomach issues and the all too occasional headache, he’s not too worried. Oh, and there have been less than restful nights, but everyone goes through that now and then. He goes down the checklist of concerns and aside from the regular issues for someone his age, he leaves most of the checklist blank. Some of it, he doesn’t even read because he already knows that none of it is his problem. Especially the part that asks about “depression” and “anxiety”. Nothing he’s gone through is THAT bad and it’s not like he doesn’t have a good life. He talks to his doctor about the occasional body aches but says that after popping a few ibuprofens every evening all is well again. “Anything else going on? Tell me about a typical day.”, says the Physician.
Suicide: Prevention, Intervention, Postvention – W.I.S.E. Chicago 2018
Congregations and Suicide Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention
Faith Connections on Mental Illness and Suicide Prevention Monday’s Muse
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Veterans Crisis Line), please call 1-844-493-8255
- For TTY Users: Use your preferred relay service or dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255.
- Text “TALK” to 38255.
- Youth LifeLine, please call 1-800-273-8255.
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline CHAT.
- Nacional de Prevención del Suicidio Lifeline ayuda en español, 1-888-628-9454.
- The Trevor Project provides support 24/7 at 866-488-7386 or text START to 678-678.
- TransLifeline is available 24/7 at 877-565-8860.
VIDEOS ON SUICIDE PREVENTION
- Warning Signs & Risk Factors for Suicide
- How to Tell if a Person is Considering Suicide
- Responding to a Suicidal Person
- Responding to Family Members After a Suicide
- Designing a Service for a Person Who Has Died by Suicide
- Suicide Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention: How Faith Communities, Community Groups, and You Can Help
Here are a few other warning signs of suicide:
- Increased alcohol and drug use
- Aggressive behavior
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and community
- Dramatic mood swings
- Impulsive or reckless behavior
Suicidal behaviors are a psychiatric emergency.
If you or a loved one starts to take any of these steps, seek immediate help from a health care provider or call 911:
- Collecting and saving pills or buying a weapon
- Giving away possessions
- Tying up loose ends, like organizing personal papers or paying off debts
- Saying goodbye to friends and family
Research has found that 46% of people who die by suicide had a known mental health condition. Several other things may put a person at risk of suicide, including:
- A family history of suicide
- Substance use. Drugs can create mental highs and lows that worsen suicidal thoughts.
- Intoxication. More than 1 in 3 people who die from suicide are under the influence of alcohol at the time of death.
- Access to firearms
- A serious or chronic medical illness
- Gender. Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are nearly 4x more likely to die by suicide.
- A history of trauma or abuse
- Prolonged stress
- A recent tragedy or loss
SUPPORT IN A CRISIS
There are a few ways to approach a suicide-crisis:
- Talk openly and honestly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions like: “Do you have a plan for how you would kill yourself?”
- Remove means such as guns, knives, or stockpiled pills
- Calmly ask simple and direct questions, like “Can I help you call your psychiatrist?”
- If there are multiple people around, have one person speak at a time
- Express support and concern
- Don’t argue, threaten or raise your voice
- Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong
- If you’re nervous, try not to fidget or pace
- Be patient
Like any other health emergency, it’s important to address a mental health crisis like suicide quickly and effectively. Unlike other health emergencies, mental health crises don’t have instructions or resources on how to help or what to expect (like the Heimlich Maneuver or CPR). That’s why NAMI created Navigating a Mental Health Crisis: A NAMI Resource Guide for Those Experiencing a Mental Health Emergency, so people experiencing mental health emergencies and their loved ones can have the answers and information they need when they need it.