NEWARK – Many people in the community right now are faced with an impossible question: Why would a pastor, husband and father of three take his own life?
Seth Oiler, senior pastor at First United Methodist Church in Newark, died by suicide Friday morning at his home. The news came as a complete shock to the congregation and the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church, which oversees First United Methodist.
“We were just heartbroken and stunned,” said Lisa Streight, communications director for the conference. “Many people are grieving, including of course his wife and children, the congregation he served and so many of his colleagues and friends. It was terribly sad.”
Right now, supporting and comforting the congregation is of the utmost importance, Streight said, and the conference has sent a support team to help the church during this difficult time.
As the community tries to make sense of its loss, Penny Sitler, executive director of Mental Health America of Licking County, is encouraging everyone to talk about how they are feeling and to look out for one another during this time.
“It’s a very sad situation, and it’s hard to understand. Life is such a gift, and when this happens, it’s tragic,” Sitler said. “People need to talk about this and get support. If someone is distraught and needs help, they should see a counselor or a family doctor.”
Statistics show that 1 in 4 people experiences mental illness in a given year. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, males are 4 times more likely than females to die by suicide, but females attempt suicide 3 times as often as males.
A 2012 report from the Ohio Suicide Prevention Coalition found that males ages 45 to 65 were the most prevalent age/gender for suicide completions in the state.
There are a variety of reasons that contribute to that, but oftentimes men are particularly vulnerable as a result of the pressures, responsibilities and expectations set for them by society, Sitler said.
And when people are grappling with difficult things in their life, sometimes the only thing they can think of as a way out is suicide, Sitler said.
Mental Health America kicked off a national campaign called B4stage4 to raise awareness for the seriousness of mental illnesses. The campaign likens getting help for mental illness as being similar to seeking treatment for other illnesses, such as cancer or heart disease: rather than waiting until Stage 4 of the illness, preventive measures are taken and when symptoms arise they try to reverse them.
It should be the same with mental health, Sitler said.
Licking County is home to a number of resources to help people who are experiencing mental illness as well as support systems for their friends and family.
The 211 crisis hotline provides confidential 24-hour telephone crisis services for issues involving mental health, suicide, alcohol and drug use/abuse as well as intellectual disabilities. Callers can get information and referral services for assistance with medical care, counseling, suicide prevention and more.
Behavioral Healthcare Partners of Central Ohio, Inc. also offers 24/7 Crisis Intervention for youths and adults experiencing a mental health or alcohol/drug crisis. During business hours, BHP’s Crisis Intervention Services can be reached at 740-522-8477. The service is available all other times by calling 211 or 800-544-1601.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 800-273-8255.
If a friend or loved one is feeling or expressing that their life is not valued, calling 211 can help, Sitler said. However, if someone presents an immediate threat to himself/herself or others, Sitler said not to hesitate and call 911.
“With mental health, we want to really encourage people to pay attention to themselves and to those around them and get the help they need,” Sitler said.
Warning signs of suicide
•Threatening to hurt or kill oneself.
•Seeking access to means.
•Talking or writing about death, dying, suicide or the afterlife.
•Feeling sad, bored, hopeless or depressed.
•Feeling worthless or a lack of purpose.
•Making verbal threats such as, “You’d be better off without me,” “I won’t be a problem for you much longer,” or “Maybe I won’t be around.”
•Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities.
•Increasing alcohol or drug use.
•Withdrawing from family, friends or society.
•Demonstrating rage and anger or seeking revenge.
•Having a dramatic change in mood such as becoming suddenly cheerful after a period of depression.
•Showing little interest in the future.
•Making major changes in looks or not taking care of oneself (if usually neat, might look sloppy).
•Acting in rash, hostile ways; often expressing rage.
•Giving or throwing away favorite belongings.
Source: Mental Health America of Licking County
Found in The Newark Advocate May 27, 2015