Suicide Prevention Counseling

by MrCellophane 18 Replies latest watchtower medical

  • MrCellophane

    In the 1980's when I was an elder, I don't remember the Society providing any guidance to elders on suicide prevention counseling. I realize much has changed since then. Can any current/recent elders update me on what the current position of the local elders would be if approached by someone in the congregation contemplating suicide and seeking help?

    Thank you,


  • OneEyedJoe

    Not (never was) an elder but my guess would be to read some generic scripture about how god is your refuge, then lay on the guilt by explaining that suicide would result in loss of a hope of resurrection and then send them on their way.

    I think I remember someone posting that a video was played at a recent elders school and the scene included the elders doing something about as effective as the above.

  • sir82

    Can any current/recent elders update me on what the current position of the local elders would be if approached by someone in the congregation contemplating suicide and seeking help?

    Based on a recent elders school video, the suggestion is this:

    If someone is suicidal, you should read them scriptures to remind them that other Biblical characters wished they were dead too. Then tell them to pray more.

    This approach clearly must work, because in the video, after the elders did this on a shepherding call, the suicidal sister they were calling on got up to fetch them some cookies.

    You probably think I am making this up - but it is 100% unvarnished truth.

  • steve2

    I recall a thread on this forum that quoted an excerpt from one of the elders' manuals: In the context of judicial hearings, it directed elders to be cautious in making decisions about whether to disfellowship, reprove etc when speaking to any brother or sister who expressed feeling suicidal.

    The manual told elders to enlist the support of the brother or sister's family. That preumes the suicidal person has a family or that the family is not one of the factors that have contributed to the suicidal state.

    There was nothing in the manual about how to assess suicidal intent or extent of having a suicidal plan and also nothing about seeking help from local services such as Mental Health Emergency Teams or Community Mental Health Services.

    It is shocking to consider that, untold numbers of JWs have become actively suicidal in response to appearing before judicial committees and that the elders are not specifically trained in how to safely shepherd such ones.

    Besides, the existing information for elders on responding to suicidal brothers and sisters presumes they will disclose they are suicidal. But that is an unsafe assumption given that people may attempt suicide without uttering a word to anyone. There is no training on how to assess whether a distressed person is suicidal.

    In short, whilst it is a step in the right direction to forestall decision making when the brother or sister verbalizes feeling suicidal, it is clearly inadequate.

  • defender of truth
    defender of truth

    The answer is found on this page on Jwsurvey:

    Dangerously negligent instructions

    But perhaps more disturbing was another video sent to me, also utilized during the Kingdom Ministry School and replete with similarly horrendous acting. This second video depicts the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way of shepherding a woman in the congregation who has been recently widowed.
    Unfortunately, though the latter depiction is supposed to be the correct approach, thinking viewers will be horrified at the negligent way the woman is handled by her elders using the “Watchtower-approved” technique.
    The advice being given to elders on how to handle suicidal individuals is alarming
    Two elders arrange to visit the woman named Mary after she tearfully approaches one of them at the end of the meeting. Before the visit, the elders meet together to strategize over what they will say.
    The older of the two decides that the visit will be all about convincing Mary to be an “integrity keeper” (a loyal Witness), and this is exactly how the resulting discussion pans out.
    At the start of the visit Mary reveals that she is so desperate following the loss of her husband, Don, that she has been contemplating suicide. She even has a plan involving asphyxiating herself in her garage using exhaust fumes.
    This should set off major alarm bells for most thinking persons with one iota of common sense. If a person has sunk to such desperation that they have planned the manner of their death, surely they are urgently in need of help that only professionals can provide?
    So, what advice do the elders offer?

    First, the older elder lectures Mary about Job and how this bible figure set the example as an integrity keeper. The elder insists that Job had just as many reasons to be “messed up” as Mary, and gives a perplexing illustration involving a needle going “into the red” to show the difficulty of Job’s situation.
    Mary is then told to repeatedly chant “I am an integrity keeper, I am an integrity keeper” next time her suicidal thoughts surface. She is also advised to “read a little from the Psalms,” and equate suicidal ideas with immoral thoughts.
    Finally the other elder bizarrely gives Mary a homework assignment, as though she is some kind of errant school child. She is told to memorize a certain verse in Jeremiah as yet another form of incantation for the next time she is feeling suicidal.
    Armed with this outrageous pseudo-psychiatry, Mary excuses herself from the conversation to get some cookies for the elders. The older elder seemingly takes this as a sign that they have done their jobs well and mouths “thank you Jehovah” heavenward as the other elder looks on.

    I realise the above sounds too ludicrous to be true, but this is really how the video plays out. The Governing Body seriously expects its elders to handle such delicate life-or-death matters in this way.

    Elders are not to give out numbers for suicide hotlines or encourage a suicidal person to seek professional help. Instead they are to give bible-based lectures, urge the uttering of incantations, and hand out homework assignments.

    Here is the download link from Jwsurvey (you can find it on the page, the link that says shepherding). Over 100mb though, so make sure Wifi is on!

    Shepherding a suicidal widow

  • Splash

    In the elders training video, two elders tell her to repeat out loud "I am an integrity keeper" three times.

    This voodoo obviously works because she then happily went to the kitchen to get drinks for the elders.

  • ToesUp

    I love how they end all their videos

    ....and they lived happily ever after.

    Except for all the "weak ones." They will be miserable until they return to Jehovah.

  • steve2

    They will be miserable until they return to Jehovah.

    Or, sadly, they end up killing themselves. And this level of simplistic direction from an organization that prides itself on being the sole channel of truth on planet Earth.

  • JustVisting


    Biblical Incantations

    Positive Affirmations

    The Baking of Cookies

    In that order, got it?

    yep, that'll get you through!

  • Bonsai

    In my experience in dealing with how elders deal with suicidal ones - they don't care. They think Jehovah will take care of the issue for them. They've got more important things to do than deal with mentally unstable ones. Who has the time when it's necessary to prepare meals for the C.O., preaching, making assignments, attending JC's, and so on.

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