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  1. Volunteer Chaplain Training Module 9 Ministering in Situations Related to Suicide © Copyright 2001 Al Henager. Use only with written permission and with proper credit.

  2. Suicide • Pastoral Care to Suicidal Persons • Pastoral Care to Survivors © Copyright 2001 Al Henager. Use only with written permission and with proper credit.

  3. Recognizing Suicidal Persons1 • Obvious suicidal threats • Covert suicidal threats • All threats must be taken seriously • A number of risk factors © Copyright 2001 Al Henager. Use only with written permission and with proper credit.

  4. Risk factors for suicide1 • Male - men succeed more often • Older age - succeed more often • A specific plan • The means to do it • Prior suicidal behavior • Depression • The leading cause of suicide attempts • All deeply depressed people are potential suicides (Karl Menninger) © Copyright 2001 Al Henager. Use only with written permission and with proper credit.

  5. Risk factors for suicide1 • Crushing losses & pathological grief • Psychological disturbances/mental illness • Chronic illness • Recent severe losses • Recent severe medical problems • Alcoholism • Lack of good support system • Poor communication with significant others • Defensive family system © Copyright 2001 Al Henager. Use only with written permission and with proper credit.

  6. A suicide attempt can be: • A cry for help • An attempt at manipulation • An expression of anger • An act of desperation • An attempt to gain sympathy/love/compassion • Deadly © Copyright 2001 Al Henager. Use only with written permission and with proper credit.

  7. Points to remember1 • Only a small number of people who attempt suicide actually succeed. • If a person unequivocally decides to do it, they will succeed. • Less than 5% of those who talk of suicide express a firm decision to do it. © Copyright 2001 Al Henager. Use only with written permission and with proper credit.

  8. Pastor’s role in suicidal crisis1 • Recognize suicidal persons • Provide emergency help until referral can be made • Continue pastoral care to person/family • Help deal with underlying causes • Help family deal with destructive consequences • Do not work in isolation2 © Copyright 2001 Al Henager. Use only with written permission and with proper credit.

  9. Suicide, some things to know3 • Suicidal thoughts are not restricted to “crazy” people • Spontaneous decisions cannot be “undone” • Loneliness can be stopped • Depression can be treated successfully • Concealed anger often contributes to depression • Drugs & alcohol create a destructive spiral • Debilitating injuries often result from suicide attempts • Committing suicide will not create love or compassion • The “right to die” is a fallacy © Copyright 2001 Al Henager. Use only with written permission and with proper credit.

  10. To recover, suicidal people need1 • Ongoing, supportive pastoral care • Psychotherapy to deal with underlying issues • Help with spiritual issues at root of their despair © Copyright 2001 Al Henager. Use only with written permission and with proper credit.

  11. Pastoral care to survivors • Use good pastoral care skills as with anyone in crisis • Listen • Listen some more • Give the “ministry of presence” • Listen even more © Copyright 2001 Al Henager. Use only with written permission and with proper credit.

  12. Family dynamics of suicide3 • Unhealed shame, guilt, & rage • Grief wounds almost always “infected” • Defensive family dynamics • Shame, denial, & hiding often prevent them from being open to help © Copyright 2001 Al Henager. Use only with written permission and with proper credit.

  13. Working with families3 • Suicide is “tip of the iceberg” of deep problems in the family system • The whole family needs pastoral care • Often they need family therapy/counseling • They need persistent help in lowering their defenses • They can benefit from a “grief group” © Copyright 2001 Al Henager. Use only with written permission and with proper credit.

  14. Points to remember4 • Avoid adding “prestige” to the victim • Glorifying the victim is a mistake • Need to help others “dis-identify” with the victim w/o abusing his/her character • Acknowledge that the person • Was seriously disturbed • Did not find a way to work through the problems © Copyright 2001 Al Henager. Use only with written permission and with proper credit.

  15. Bibliography 1Basic Types of Pastoral Care and Counseling: Resources for the Ministry of Healing and Growth. Howard Clinebell (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992). Pp. 235-239. 2Sullender, R. Scott and H. Newton Malony, “Should Clergy Counsel Suicidal Persons?” The Journal of Pastoral Care, Fall 1990, Vol. XLIV, No. 3, pp.203-211. 3Suicide: The Forever Decision--For Those Thinking About Suicide, and for Those who Know, Love, or Counsel Them (New Expanded Edition). Paul G. Quinett (New York: Continuum, 1992). 4Perspectives on Suicide. James T. Clemons (Ed.) (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1990). p.18.