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Dealing with the Mentally Ill

Posted by Charles "Chuck" Chadwick, Jr. on

We’ve all seen the bill boards along the freeway -  “Are you hurting?”, “Do you need hope?”, “Jesus is the answer!” We advertise for people with problem to come to our church. Don’t be surprised when they show up wanting help!

If you have been in the security field for any length of time you know the drill; A person comes into the church and doesn’t look familiar but looks somewhat out of place. They may look destitute, unkept, a wild look in their eyes. Enough to cause you, and others, concern. As the Gatekeeper on duty it is your responsibility to go see what’s going on.

I’ve heard people say that they were advised to “Keep an eye on that person.” Do not let the pastoral staff tell you that it is your duty to “handle” this person. It is not your job as a security officer to “treat” the mentally ill. You have not been formally trained as a doctor in psychiatry, unless that is your daily job. It is your responsibility to determine weather the person is a danger to him/herself or others and if not, turn them over to the pastoral staff for whatever help the church wants to give them.

The way we do this is through a term we coined many years ago call “Aggressive Friendliness”. It works best when you are in plain clothes. A uniform usually puts the person in a defensive frame of mind. We would always approach the person alone (have some backup off to the side ready to lend a hand if help is needed).

The conversation would start “Hello, how are you doing today? My name is Chuck, I’m a member hear,  we are so happy you came today. Are you new here?”

This starts the conversation off very friendly and gets them to communicate why they are at the church. From their answer you can start to understand who they are and why they are at the church.

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