Let’s Talk about Mental Health
From the Brotherhood Mutual Safety Library.
One chat message from a dying teen changed the mission of online radio station Remedy.FM. The radio station as co-founded in 2007 by Clinton Faupel, an ordained minister. He began in ministry as a youth pastor to inner-city youth, which led him to see the need for a positive outreach effort, a way to speak directly into their hearts. Remedy.FM was the answer. It brought a positive message using relevant technology and music.
As Remedy.FM became more popular, the staff started receiving online chat messages from youth, often sharing their struggles and looking for advice. What began as a channel to bring a fun, positive message, quickly became an opportunity to directly engage with people, particularly those struggling with issues related to mental health.
Faupel vividly remembers when Remedy.FM received a chat message from a youth who said he had just taken some pills and was dying. The staff found his address in the database and immediately called 911.
“After that incident, it was never the same for the staff. They no longer wanted to concentrate on music and fun; they wanted to focus on change and how to help people,” said Faupel.
Over the next two years, Faupel and team would develop the SoulMedic role and transition Remedy.FM to RemedyLIVE, the first 24/7 Christian-based crisis chat service. SoulMedics are trained to provide hope and encouragement by listening to each person, building trust that leads to an ongoing conversation so they can get help. They aren’t counselors, but rather a bridge for people who are in crisis to get connected to long-term help.
SoulMedics are available 24/7 at RemedyLIVE.com or by texting 494949.
Conversation Erases Stigma
Just as the staff at Remedy were shaken by their experience, suicide can leave a congregation devastated and searching for answers, too. Every 11 minutes, someone in the U.S. dies by suicide.1 That’s more than 47,000 people every year.1
Even more staggering are the statistics surrounding thoughts of suicide. Since 2016, RemedyLIVE has polled more than 102,000 high school students—33 percent have seriously considered suicide.2
Christian leaders uniquely minister to a broken and hurting world. While many pastors feel prepared to recognize those struggling with mental illness and thoughts of suicide, most feel that they could be better prepared.3 According to research conducted by LifeWay, less than half of churches regularly discuss mental health.3
Whether it’s out of a fear of stigma or a misunderstanding of the complexity of the issue, Christian ministries are poised to help lead an ongoing conversation about this challenging issue while showing care and compassion. As Romans 12:2 reminds us, it’s important to renew one’s mind with the transforming power of God’s word.
Talk. Take Time. Listen. Do these regularly.
Prayer and congregational engagement are important components of caring for those within the church struggling with depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide, or addiction.
“When someone faces a crisis, we need to be brave by asking, ‘how can we get some help?’ Caring for the mind should be a regular part of how we do church,” said Faupel.
If your ministry is engaged in conversation about mental health and suicide—either through educational awareness, spiritual counseling, or as part of a response team—there are ample opportunities to help and many training resources.
Form a Mental Health Crisis Team
Some states now require or encourage school districts to have a mental health crisis response team that’s trained in handling mental health emergencies and promoting mental health advocacy within schools. Churches are beginning to follow suit, developing their own crisis response team.
“Churches have medical response teams, so it makes sense also to have a mental health response team,” emphasized Faupel.
When starting your team, it’s important to recruit the help of licensed counselors, emergency room nurses, or local law enforcement to bring their expertise to the church. A mental health crisis response team should understand the various issues and can engage the congregation in awareness of mental illness and the topic of suicide.
“In the church, if you know someone is struggling, you have a moral duty and responsibility to get them help,” said Faupel. “It can cause a damaged relationship temporarily, but it is worth it to save a life.”
Train Your Team
Once a mental health crisis team is established, it’s crucial for them to receive training. There are many options for ministries to consider. The following three training models may be a great place to start as your ministry enhances its crisis team’s training:
1. Mental Health First Aid trains individuals to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness. This training helps people recognize when someone is in crisis, which can lead to an appropriate response to encourage the individual to get help. “It’s a great baseline for church leaders and mental health task force volunteers,” explained Faupel. Learn about local training opportunities at www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/take-a-course/find-a-course.
2. The QPR model—Question, Persuade, Refer—takes mental health first aid a step further by equipping ministries to listen, care, and understand. The training helps individuals know how to ask appropriate questions, persuade at-risk individuals to get help, and respond to make sure individuals are safe after expressing thoughts of suicide. Many local health systems and schools are beginning to offer free QPR training opportunities. Simply search for local opportunities in your area. Additionally, mental health awareness training grants may be available to help pay for training. Go to www.samhsa.gov for more information.
3. Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) is an advanced training course that may be appropriate for your ministry leadership and mental health task force leaders. This two-day training course equips leaders with the necessary skills to recognize at-risk individuals and intervene when necessary. To find local training opportunities, go to www.afsp.org and search for your state’s chapter.
Visit brotherhoodmutual.com for more articles, including “Four Steps to Start a Support Group,” “Navigating the Changing Landscape of Outreach,” and “Adult Care Ministry: Planning Helps Avert Liability Risks.”
- National Institute of Mental Health. Suicide Statistics. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/ health/statistics/suicide.shtml Accessed 3 September 2019.
- RemedyLive. The Get Schooled Tour, Polling data. getschooledtour.com/polling-data
- Suicide and the Church. LifeWay Research. Accessed 1 October 2019.
The information provided in this article is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. We strongly encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.
Article used with permission ©2019 Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company. All rights reserved. www.brotherhoodmutual.com