Dr. Veronica Sites, D.Min, Crisis Response and Suicide Prevention
Since 2003, September 10th, has been recognized as World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD), as a commitment of action to prevent suicides globally. Veronica Sites is on a mission to elevate soul care and inspire action in suicide prevention and recovery at church. It is by calling, anointing, and credentials to understand mental health and communicate biblical principles in simplified ways for practical life skills that she makes this call to action. Inspired by her book, Love Me To Life; Suicide Recovery At Church, the Lord has birthed a 501c-3 called VS of Life that provides training and facilitates programs with a ministry focus on whole soul care and mental wellness. Failure to care holistically for mind, body, and soul limits healing and restoration. The vision is to equip people with the resilience and skills to flourish in the plan God has to prosper whom the enemy seeks to destroy.
Like Goliath, a giant called stigma must be defeated. Thankfully, church leaders have started to speak out and facilitate conversations addressing mental health. Deaths by suicide and attempts send shockwaves of pain, making it imperative that churches step up as a more intentional resource of restoration. Compromised mental health touches one in six people. Consider the size of your congregation. Far too many potential assets of lived experience have not been tapped into as powerful arsenals essential to soul care. Healing and restoration must extend to situations referred out, yet still in need of healing soul wounds. Consider the Church as part of a continuum in mental health.
Suicide has long been a tragedy hesitantly addressed in ministry. Because it is a mental health crisis, a general result is a quick referral to a therapist and minimal follow-up care by ministry servants. Licensed therapists largely lean on evidence-based scientific research with limitations on how beliefs or spirituality can be discussed. This is where biblical follow-up is important and derived from the model found in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Without consideration that individuals as a whole are mind, body, and soul with feelings and thoughts that are neither a byproduct of brain development nor originating from the soul, only partial care is accomplished by medical care and counseling. We must consider the divine. Somehow, in the miraculous weaving together in the mother’s womb, the soul inexplicably took residence in the body where physical and mental wounds lead to thoughts and penetrate to the soul by way of damaged emotions and the psyche, therefore, impacting the whole person. Mental health without soul care leaves vulnerable, wounded souls overwhelmed by God-designed emotions intended to be messengers that change is necessary. Confusing, reactive emotions escalate chaos that wreaks havoc on a person. This is one way the enemy seeks to kill, steal, and destroy minds in need of remaining clear. Because spiritual warfare is more than what the confines of mental health allow, and in much mental breakdown, there are lies believed, it is imperative that a person in need knows how to use biblical principles to advance to a place of resilience with help from mentors and therapists.
We must realize that countless silent testimonies remain untapped assets of hope and help to others beyond scientific, evidence-based data. It behooves the masses that leaders advocate in this area of evidence by freedom ministry and testimony building. The Church has room for improvement in the development of practical soul care mentors. As an advocate of hope and growth, there is a call for H.E.L.P. Survivors need Humane Emotional Language, Please! Improvement starts with awareness of the language we use. In the tongue is the power to speak life more effectively.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Reframing, Neurolinguistic Programing, Eye Movement Rapid Desensitization, and a host of other effective modalities have the limitation of not addressing soul wounds. Modalities without ministry do not result in wholeness. Soul care is the work of the Holy Spirit carried out through God’s Word and the triumphant stories and voices of those with lived experience. The power of a testimony to silence the enemy when someone is in the struggle is immeasurable!
Training will enhance the impact of soul care. The lives of others literally depend on the recovery from soul wounds left by trauma. Trauma-informed discipleship would improve the soul work believers get to do.
Ask yourself, how do my biases or personal hurts impact how my faith is lived and worked out when it comes to suicide? How do we, as a church, restore connection when someone is touched by suicide? How can we improve ministry, so that wounded souls return for restorative care, love, and affirmations that an incident does not determine identity? We have a responsibility to help those alive, as well as bound to “remove the grave clothes” of stigma.
Without development, it may be that evidence based on lived experience has not found the most effective means of serving. Healing fosters healthy dependence on the Lord and interdependence within communities. Survivors need one another, and with no freedom to discover how God took what the enemy meant for evil in one person’s tragedy who currently lives in triumph to help others, we hinder restoration.
Call To Action
The next step to enhance soul care is to create a safety net of people trained in safeTALK Suicide Prevention. Statistics indicate that most people turn to coworkers, clergy, or friends before contacting a professional or hotline when struggling with thoughts of suicide. Are you equipped?
Fatality statistics do not emphasize critical pieces of information that we must realize. For each counted death by suicide numbering 45,979 annually, thirty individuals have attempted and survived – meaning annually, there are 1,379,370 to help. As leaders, we must recognize the need and opportunity in order to improve ministry. Impact starts with conviction and being a beacon of hope as a host church that will offer training as a force multiplier to create suicide-safer communities.
Soul Care ministry will develop in cohorts so that, as a larger network, we work together. The simple model requires training and collaboration with mental health professionals recognizing and supportive of whole soul care. From there, peer support cohorts are developed to commence biblical and trauma-informed mentorship. The goal is collaboration, utilizing the foundation of Scripture, so that lies believed are transformed from the chaotic to the freedom attained. Health care addresses the body. Mental health addresses the mind and emotions. Souls need soul care ambassadors.
Many times, a person in crisis loses the capacity to do simple tasks. Sometimes, the greatest help is to go the extra mile to facilitate the next step for a person in crisis. Prevention is not about one person doing more than he can. Ministry is about how much each person can do as part of the body of Christ to be the difference someone needs.
To bring safeTALK training to your community, reach out to Veronica. As a Destiny leader, she is here to serve.
Suicide prevention is stewardship. Save this hotline number in your contact (800) 784-2433. The use of 988 is an intended faster way to simplify calls, yet, at present, not all states are fully operational to facilitate faster response times.
(Cited National Institute On Mental Health, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Love Me To Life)
Veronica Sites uses her M.A. Theology and D.Min in Crisis Response and Suicide Prevention as she serves at Calvary Church, Ft. Worth. Publications in print include Love Me To Life, Conflict Resolution Solutions and Rachael Did You Know, all available on Amazon. Visit her website at: www.vsoflife.com