____________________________________________________________________Holland Sentinel Article, October 2020

God provides you tools to save lives.

Suicide literature often distinguishes between suicide prevention, intervention and postvention. "Vention" comes from the Latin venire (to come) plus pre (to come before), inter (to come between) and post (to come after).

The following resources are credited to Pastor Paul Tautges' Counseling One Another website.

You are qualified to help: If you know and love Jesus, then you are able to help the suicidal person more than you realize. Pastor Bruce Ray writes, "You may not feel prepared, but you have what you need to help.
Long before there were professional counselors, people in trouble relied upon family and friends to help them through difficult times. Writing to believers in Rome, the Apostle Paul said to the whole church (not just the church leaders), 'I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another' (Romans 15:14)." You possess three very important qualifications:

You have the character to help others: As a believer, you are "full of goodness." You care about others and you seek to do them good, not harm.

You have the knowledge to help others: You may not know everything about the problems your friend is confronting, or be an expert on suicide, but you have access to divine wisdom.

You have the motivation to help others: You are "competent to instruct one another." The word translated "instruct" in the NIV means "to put or place into mind," and is elsewhere translated "admonish," "warn" or "counsel." It carries the idea of lovingly confronting someone with the purpose of bringing about desirable change in his or her thinking and living. Your motivation for helping others is their welfare, not your own personal gain.

Remember, don't try to be a hero. If your friend or family member is in imminent danger, you need to employ the civil authorities. Once safety is regained, however, don't merely leave your friend "to the professionals." You are the person your friend needs right now. Trust the Lord to use you to direct the mind and heart of your friend to Jesus Christ, the one who came to give not only eternal life, but also the abundant life (John 10:10).

When depression is present, suicidal persons can send out conflicting signals. One of the most dangerous periods is on the way down, when they are unhappy with life and close to the bottom, but still have enough energy to carry out a plan.

At the bottom of the curve, life is flat and depressed persons have little energy to do anything. This is when they don't go to school or work, don't seem to get anything done, and spend a lot of time unable or unwilling to get out of bed or off the couch. When they start to come out of the depression, that's the next most dangerous period because they are beginning to regain energy and can again carry out a plan. Often friends are misled into thinking that the suicidal person is getting better: "He seemed so much happier the last few days ..." That apparent happiness may be because the person has a plan and now has the energy to carry it out.

The point here is we are not done with our work caring for those considering suicide even after they have received professional help. Stay connected. Learn the life-improving and life-saving action plan Be Nice by taking the pledge.

I am a mental health and suicide prevention advocate involved in local, regional and national mental health organizations. One of the most effective programs I've found is the Be Nice action plan from the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan. For five years, I have been a trained educational liaison for Be Nice, and I serve on the MHF board.

My company, Elhart Automotive Campus, supports the MHF's mission and has successfully implemented the Be Nice program. To take the pledge, find help, learn about their programs, or get involved. Please visit the MHF website at benice.org.

- Jeff Elhart is Playground Director II of the Elhart Automotive Campus in Holland. For more information, contact benice@elhart.com.

              ____________________________________________________________________Holland Sentinel Article, September 2020

Be Nice, and the Good Samaritan.

The action plan for mental illness awareness and suicide prevention, Be Nice, as this column repeatedly has described, is an iconic manner in which all can utilize to help one in need. There is a well-known parable in the Bible that illustrates this concept.

The parable of the Good Samaritan tells the story of a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, and while on the way he is robbed of everything he had, including his clothing, and is beaten to within an inch of his life. That road was treacherously winding and was a favorite hideout of robbers and thieves. The next character Jesus introduces is a priest, only telling of how the priest showed no love or compassion for the man by failing to help him and passing on the other side of the road so as not to get involved. If there was anyone who would have known God's law of love, it would have been the priest. By nature of his position, he was to be a person of compassion, desiring to help others. Unfortunately, "love" was not a word for him that required action on the behalf of someone else. The next person to pass is a Levite, and he does exactly what the priest did: He passes by without showing any compassion.

The next person to come by is the Samaritan, the one least likely to have shown compassion. Samaritans were considered a low class of people by the Jews since they had intermarried with non-Jews and did not keep all the law. Therefore, Jews would have nothing to do with them. We do not know if the injured man was a Jew or Gentile, but it made no difference to the Samaritan; he did not consider the man's race or religion.

The Good Samaritan saw only a person in dire need of assistance, and assist him he did, above and beyond the minimum required. He dresses the man's wounds with wine (to disinfect) and oil (to sooth the pain). He puts the man on his animal and takes him to an inn for a time of healing and pays the innkeeper with his own money. He then goes beyond common decency and tells the innkeeper to take good care of the man, and he would pay for any extra expenses on his return trip. The Samaritan saw his neighbor as anyone who was in need.

By ending the encounter in this manner, Jesus is telling us to follow the Samaritan's example in our own conduct; i.e., we are to show compassion and love for those we encounter in our everyday activities. We are to love others regardless of their race or religion; the criterion is need. If they need and we have the supply, then we are to give generously and freely, without expectation of return.

So, what is the connection of the great parable of the Good Samaritan and the action plan Be Nice?

The man on the side of the road is the man who is beaten down with his silent depression or anxiety. No one knows the pain he is feeling. He is like one of America's growing population given the pandemic today that suffers with this silent disease and most cases goes unnoticed as he did (even though he was visibly beaten) by others.

The priest and the Levite are bystanders. Without compassion, they pass.

The Samaritan then arrives and first notices the man needs help. The Samaritan possessed no special assets or position; the Samaritan invited himself to use his God-given love and compassion (which we all possess). Then he challenged himself to bring the beaten man to get professional help. He took him to the inn and empowered himself to help the man even further.

You too can learn the simple action plan of Be Nice by going to benice.org and taking the pledge (a 12-minute video). Do you have the need to know how to show compassion for those hurting with the silent disease of depression and anxiety? Start today by receiving the knowledge of how to notice, invite, challenge and empower.

- Jeff Elhart is Playground Director II of the Elhart Automotive Campus in Holland. For more information, contact benice@elhart.com.

              ____________________________________________________________________Holland Sentinel Article, August 2020

Sacrifice. Be bold. Take a chance.

Have you ever witnessed someone within your family, your workplace, your church or your community of friends who may not appear to being themselves? Have you noticed someone who just doesn't seem to be happy at work? Have you noticed one of your children spending time in their bedroom alone and isolated? Have you noticed someone at your church who seemed to be in tears? Have you noticed one of your friends who may be struggling?

Maybe he/ she is out of work due to the coronavirus or is struggling with a family matter?

Imagine receiving a call from a friend who shares with you he/ she is experiencing depression. What do you do?

These are just a few of real-life situations happening among our community. With the help of an action plan called Be Nice, you have a tool to help you to move from a concerned observer to an active life guard. This article is not necessarily for the 20 percent of us who suffer with a mental illness, but is more intended for the 80 percent of us who do not know what it's like to deal with depression, or worse yet, struggle with the ideation of suicide (the thought of taking one's own life).

First, notice what is good and right about the person. If you are working with the person (we'll call Sam for the purpose of this article), you probably already know what makes him tick. You have seen what makes Sam special with respect to his personal and professional attributes.

Let's say you don't work with Sam, but he is a friend of a friend.

You've never met him.

Can you really help him?

Absolutely! How? Ask questions such as; "When you're not working, Sam, what do you like to do?"

Do you normally like to be with other people or do you normally like to be alone? How much sleep do you normally get per night Sam?"

By asking a few questions, you can uncover what Sam likes to do.

Now, we need to assess if Sam's behavior has changed from what he normally enjoys doing.

"Sam, you mentioned you like to go fishing in your free time and you mentioned that you do it every weekend. When is the last time that you went fishing?" If Sam answers, "Not for the past several weeks," that may be a sign of depression. If someone exhibits a change in behavior for two weeks or longer, it's time to take notice for their well- being. If someone exhibits four or more major changes in their behavior, suicide ideation might be taking place.

What's next? Invite yourself to have a loving, caring conversation with Sam to let him know you have noticed these changes in his behavior and you are concerned about his well- being. When Sam hears from you about your genuine concern for him, he will appreciate your personal interest.

Then it's time to challenge. This is the "sacrifice, being bold or taking a chance" of Be Nice. If Sam exhibited a number of noticeable changes in his behavior, it's time to ask the tough question: "Sam, I care for you and I'm concerned about your well- being. Are you thinking of killing yourself?" Sam will appreciate your question because he has been living with this silent disease for too long with the possibility of no one noticing. The question does not give Sam a green light to take his own life - quite the opposite. Sam is relieved someone cares and recognizes his personal mental health struggles.

Next, based on Sam's response, it's time to empower yourself to get Sam professional help based on his responses to your questions. If Sam needs immediate help because he said he wants to end his life, Sam needs a ride to the hospital emergency room or call 911. Other resources are the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255.

You, too, can be a lifeguard for today's fastest- growing mental health epidemic.

However, it's one life at a time. A co- worker, a friend or a stranger.

Take the steps to be bold and take a chance.

All it takes is a little of your personal time to sacrifice to go from a bystander to a lifeguard.

Learn more at benice.org. Take the 12-minute video pledge to Be Nice.

- Jeff Elhart is Playground Director II of the Elhart Automotive Campus in Holland. 

For more information, contact benice@elhart.com