The crisis of suicide

Be ready for that cry for help

Suicide is a unique kind of death. Almost without exception it leaves people behind who will have a complicated process of grieving because of the unanswered questions surrounding the death and the assumption of guilt for the person’s actions. As a pastor- counselor, it is important to understand these burdens felt by the survivor-victims of suicide. Pastors should know the process of referral and the process of grief recovery. They should also be alert to minister to the bereaved ones, especially at times such as the loved one’s birthdays, special holidays, wedding anniversaries, and the bereavement anniversary when memory has a way of bringing back the tortured past. As a pastor-friend you may want to send survivor-victims a little note of concern and encouragement at these special times to let them know you care. Survivors generally receive a great deal of concern and caring right after the death of their loved one, but soon after, their special needs and pains are forgotten as people rush on with their busy lives.

As a minister, you should always he ready for the cry for help and for the cry of the grieving.

–Vera R. Andress, Ph. D., is professor of psychology at La Sierra University Riverside, California.

¹ Edwin 5. Shneidman and Norman L. Farberow, eds., The Cry for Help (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1958).
Vern R. Andress and David M. Corey, The Demographic Distribution of suicide in Riverside Country Between 1965 and 1969 (Loma Linda, Calif.: Loma Linda University, 1976).
³ B. Borque, B. Cosand. and J. Kraus, “Comparison of Male and Female Suicide in a Defined Community,” Journal of Community Health 9(1983): 7-17.

Continuing Education Exercise

The crisis of suicide

1. You receive a phone call from one of your parishioner who is intending to commit suicide. The caller says, “I’m thinking about cashing in my chips.” List the steps you would take in dealing with this situation.
2. Write down some of the clues that a suicide intender leaves. flow would you alert the family and loved ones to watch for these clues?
3. Suicidal people fall into three categories. Can you identify them? Think back in your ministry and see if there were parishioners who might have fallen into these categories. How could you help anyone you may detect in the future as being in one of these categories?
4. Make a list of professional counseling and referral personnel specializing in suicide in your community, and place the list in a specific, easily accessible location.

Suggested reading

Farberow, Norman L., ed. The Many faces of Suicide, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1980. Discusses the characteristics of suicidal behavior.

Lester, David. Why People Kill Themselves. 3rd ed. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, 1992. A leading suicide researcher provides an encyclopedic review of current literature on suicide.

McIntosh, John L., Dunce, Edward J., Dunce-Maxim, Karen. Suicide and Its Aftermath. New York: W. W. Norton, 1987. Discusses the effect of suicide on the significant others who are left behind. Gives suggestions on how to care for survivor-victims.

Shneidman, Edwin S. and Norman L. Farberow. Clues to Suicide, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1957. The seminal work on suicide demographics and the characteristics of suicidal behavior.

The Phone Call You Don’t Want

S U I C I D E: A 60-minute video (VHS or Pal) to help you discover

  • Why people commit suicide
  • The common myths about suicide
  • Who are the high risks
  • The role of the church in prevention, intervention and postvention
  • How to care for the victim’s family

Includes the text The Forever Decision and Study Guide. US$39.95

Ministerial Supply/Seminars Unlimited Orders:
(800)982-3344   Information (817)641-3643

This article was published in the July 1996 issue of Ministry magazine,
the international journal of the Seventh-day Adventist Ministerial Association,
published by the Review & Herald Publishing Association at 55 W Oak Ridge Drive, Hagerstown MD 21740.
Reproduced here by permission of the editors.


The crisis of suicide — 2 Comments

  1. I was a student of Vern at Loma Linda University Riverside before and after it became La Sierra University. I know of his health issues at the time. I think of him often and wonder if he is still teaching. Would you know? He has a paper I wrote for his psych class that I would like to get back or, at least, get a copy of. The course was thanatology and the paper was about my grandmother’s death. If you could let me know how I might get a copy of it, I would be ever so grateful.

    Thank you!

    Deborah L. Burdette

    • We’re sorry, but we do not know the whereabout of Vern right now. Perhaps you could do a little research on the web to find other places he is mentioned? (The articles on here are pretty old, though still relevant. Human nature doesn’t change that much. 😉 )

      If you find him, perhaps you can let us know.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *