Dear Salvation Army, Not Another Suicide…

We just recently moved, or more accurately, we were appointed to a new appointment within the Salvation Army.  Every ministry is unique from town to town, city to city…this is no different.  Our ministry here in the new appointment is far different from the last.  The need within abstract poverty is significantly higher.  There is more drug and alcohol problems…and a staggering amount of mental health issues within this community.
depression
Just recently a young adult female in our soup kitchen committed suicide…it hurts me to think that no one was there for her when she needed someone the most.  She was only 22 years old.  She suffered from depression and a slew of other mental health issues.  I wish her story was an isolated incident, but I know it’s not.  I could probably rationalized it all away and say to myself “well she was already troubled” or “She was too far gone to get help and prevent her suicide“…but I won’t do that.  I can’t help but wonder if we missed an opportunity with her.  Are we missing out on a crucial life and death ministry?

I know there are no easy answers and “quick fixes” will not solve deeper issues, but we cannot afford to do nothing.  We cannot ignore this blight of humanity.

Statistics:
Affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.  (Source: adaa.org)

350,000,000 is the number of people globally who are affected by some form of depression.
70% is the The percentage by which women are more likely than men to experience depression in their lifetime.
16,000,000 is The estimated number of U.S. adults who had at least one major depressive episode 2012. This made up approximately 6.9 percent of all adults in the country.
50%  is the percentage of Americans with major depression who don’t seek treatment for the mental illness.

(Source: Huffington Post)

povertyQuestions to Ponder Today:
-Can we, as Salvationists, do something to help either directly or indirectly (seeking professional help and counselors who can help)?
-What does ministry that serves those who suffer from mental health issues look like?
-Can we help to prevent suicides of those who come into our doors for help?
-Are there marginalized people in my community who suffer from mental health illnesses that I can help?
-How can we be more sensitive to the needs of those who are suffering with these ailments?

soup
I don’t have all of the answers, in fact, I have more questions than answers…but I know that we can do more.
I don’t want to just be a soup kitchen that feeds the body but does nothing to help the mind find healing.
I know that many mental illnesses are difficult to treat and even cure, but certainly we can do something…
Many displaced individuals who come for food into our soup kitchens are struggling through things like depression, thoughts of suicide, and other deeper mental issues…certainly we can work with professionals to help them.  We can’t not help.  We must help.  We could be the last stop before they consider taking their lives.

Is there a need for a mental health ministry in your corps?
Are you already doing something in your present ministry that you could share with us?
Please respond, please share, and I covet your suggestions and experiences…post them here if you can, we can help each other find workable solutions to this horrific blight on humanity.

Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Prayer: Lord help us to have discernment with the people we minister to.  Help us love the unlovable.  Help us to be your witnesses of love to the downtrodden.  Guide us in doing this ministry.  We are your people first and from this flows your mercy and grace.  Guide The Salvation Army as we bring hope into hopeless situations through your power alone.  Guide us dear Lord.  -Amen.

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4 Comments

  1. My grandfather took his own life. A lady volunteer who worked for me took her own life. A military member from our local Air Force Base took his own life when he crashed his motorcycle head on into the brick wall of our Thrift Store. I got to patch the hole in the wall straddling the “fluids” on the ground that night. I am associated with suicide.

    A young lady came to our social services office and asked if she could just talk to someone. We called for our Mrs. Corps Officer who’s first response was “I’m not trained to counsel, I don’t know how to talk to someone”. How in the world can we call our Officers Ministers if they haven’t been trained to minister to someone in emotional or spiritual pain? Why aren’t we training our officers and soldiers to be that shoulder.

    The good news is there is a new training program available called “Mental Health First Aid”. There is an adult version and a child version. Information about it can be found here: http://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org. It is a very good training that takes about 6 hours.

    The Salvation Army also teaches Emotional & Spiritual Care Training along with Critical Incident Stress Management Training. Unfortunately the availability of this training by The Salvation Army is sparse to say the least. You would think all Soldiers and Officers would be trained in Emotional & Spiritual Care. It’s not even a block in CFOT from what I understand. Apparently training someone how to properly dress a mannequin in used clothes is probably more important.

      1. I must confess I’ve had thoughts of suicide myself. Apparently many people do. However I did bring it to my doctor who arranged for me to meet with a behavioral specialist. According to him I was going through a perfect storm of probably SADD, definitely PTSD (both work & personal life related), and definitely work related stress (I work for The Salvation Army) and burnout. I think just the act of admitting it to someone else was the biggest hurdle. Having someone else look at your life with you can sometimes help bring things into perspective. One of the things we were taught in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) was if someone said they felt suicidal was to ask if they had a plan. It was during this training I realized that I actually had a plan. The counselor knew it, I didn’t realize it was a plan, but looking back I now understand why he asked certain questions or went in a certain direction. Anyway, he cleared me after four visits, I know what some triggers are now, and I know to have some me time away from work and church when needed. It is OK to do things that are enjoyable again.

  2. I am an envoy in the same appointment for 15 years. I am very involved in Disaster work at all levels. The ESC classes are extremely well done and the training is great. Kevin Ellers in Central territory EDS trains a train the trainer class (say that fast 10 times) when you can get him He is a Psychologist and really does well. The Critical Incident Stress Management courses offered by the International Critical Incident Stress foundation (ICISF) are also great for assisting those in situations of great loss. My first disaster was the WTC attacks in 2001 and I was counseling firefighters and Law enforcement with no training.

    Sometimes a shoulder and an ear are all that’s needed. Just be human and don’t make promises you can’t keep. Find the rsources in your local town, (mine is less than 35,000 but we have a great Counseling center which works with us when we find someone in trouble. We are also between 2 Indian Reservations (Apache and Navajo) where the unemployment rate is nearly 50% and the suicide rate for young men is extremely high. It is not unisual for parents to awaken to their oldest son hanging from the tree in the front yard.

    Perhaps a coalition of available resources and churches might help if you are into putting the group together. (Like you have a lot of time) but if you discover some in the community who are willing to take leadership roles, then you can attack the problem with vigor. I will be praying for you

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