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Workshop teaches mental health crises de-escalation

By Steven James BCC Editor

Crisis chaplain and Crisis chaplain and “Taking God on Patrol” author Mark Caronna led a free seminar at Bandera First Baptist Church on Saturday about how to deescalate crisis situations, mainly with people who have mental disorders.
Caronna focused on four major illnesses: bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia spectrum disorder. Caronna described signs people could recognize in those who have the illnesses, the best methods for how to lower the intensity in disturbing, stressful and terrifying situations, common misconceptions about each illness and what one can do to help people with these illnesses. He also gave suggestions for how people with these disorders can cope with them, including keeping a personal journal, talking about their problems before they begin acting out their problems and trying their best to take care of themselves.
In the U.S., nearly 8 million adults have PTSD per year, more than 3 million people have schizophrenia, more than 15 million have depression and approximately 5.7 adults have bipolar disorder.
“We tend to think we’re not showing faith by taking medicine or going to a doctor,” Caronna said. “How can you be an effective servant, or anything else in your life, if you neglect to take care of yourself?”
Caronna, who served on the Houston Police Department as a senior officer, a member of the crisis intervention team and an instructor in the mental health unit, based the seminar on a 40-hour workshop he taught to law enforcement officers. He said he would like to teach the workshop at other locations.
Even though rates in suicide do not necessarily increase during the holiday season, Caronna said he wanted to teach the seminar in early December because the holidays tend to remind people what’s missing in their lives. Many people released from prison who have mental health issues have a hard time finding jobs. Some even get shunned by their family members.
Judging people for what seems like them not taking care of themselves is extremely hazardous, Caronna said. He said people in crises situations are not simply seeking attention—they just want help ending their pain.
Some of the bible verses he alluded to in trying to prove his points included Psalm 77:2, 1 Kings 19:3-8, Numbers 11:14-15, 2 Corinthians 5:1-2, Jonah 4:3 and Hebrews 4:15.
He said people who have already attempted suicide will probably try again. If a person is thinking of killing himself, the best thing to do would be to talk to him and get him help.
“”Well, if you’re not taking your medication, don’t call me for help”,” Caronna said. “Is that the compassion that Christ had? I don’t think so.”
Caronna said those who are suffering from mental illnesses and suicidal thoughts should find a friend to confide in.
He also instructed to be direct with questions. Do not ask if somebody is going to hurt himself while he’s considering suicide—he won’t feel pain, he will be dead—instead ask if he wants to kill himself.
In 2014, 13 out of 100,000 people in the U.S. killed themselves, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1999, rates were 10.5 out of 100,000, which is a 24 percent increase.
The suicide rate for females increased the most in the 10 to 14 age group and the rate for males increased the most in the 45 to 64 age group, also according to the CDC. The most common method used by females was poison—34.1 percent—while the most common method used by males was firearms—55.4 percent.
Warriors Heart Treatment Center is located at 756 Purple Sage Road in Bandera for active military, first responders and veterans suffering from chemical dependency and PTSD.
Several mental health treatment facilities also exist in San Antonio, including the La Paz Community Mental Health Center at 530 San Pedro Ave., the Children’s Behavioral Health Satellite Office at 6812 Bandera Road and the Northwest Clinic- University Family Health Center at 5372 Fredericksburg Road.
Bandera First Baptist member Sandra Vannatter, who worked as a counselor for the Bandera and Medina Independent School Districts, attended the meeting.
“I like to stay current,” Vannatter said. “One thing I picked up today is if a person partakes in alcoholic consumption after a traumatic event, it cements that traumatic event into their brain.”
Crisis chaplain and Bandera First Baptist member Tom Mooney said people with mental illnesses who are in jail and those who try finding jobs after getting released are more serious problems than the public realizes.
“It’s ironic to me we’ve got to lock them up before we talk about faith,” Mooney said. “”F” in “felony” is the new “S” in “Scarlet Letter.”
Caronna suggested people actively listen—paying attention to what someone is saying without talking over that person for the purpose of reaching mutual understanding—to deescalate a crisis situation. If somebody is thinking of killing himself, try asking him why as a way to open up other options. He also said to avoid arguing and criticizing.
“The fact they are still alive shows ambivalence,” Caronna said. “Talk about things worth living for.”