by Sister Chero Chuma, CSJP
Sister Chero Chuma, CSJP recently graduated from Seattle University with a BSN in nursing and a BA in Theology and Religious Studies. Below she shares a reflection from her ministry as a Registered Nurse on the psychiatric unit of a hospital in the Seattle area.
I do not know about you, but there are moments in life when I have assumed that everybody at every moment appreciates life as a gift. My ministry as a Registered Nurse in an inpatient psychiatric unit is an everyday invitation for me to stop, look and reflect on this most valuable gift called life that has been given to me. The individuals that I minister to and with are admitted through the emergency department because they have attempted suicide or have suicidal ideations. A big chunk of time at work is spent doing therapeutic listening and exploring ways that an individual can cope with the crisis if they hit rock bottom again.
Feelings of regret, anger, and guilt that the suicide plan did not succeed are always heard in the first few hours and sometimes several days after admission. Those not in the same ministry always ask, how do you do it? This same question came out of my mouth when I finished my first ever suicide assessment as a nurse, how did I do that? It is through the grace of God that I am able to sit, listen, BE, and join in the suffering with someone who is regretting an unsuccessful suicide and at that moment does not look at life as a gift.
Deep down in my heart as I sit down to assess suicide risks and actively listen to my patients, I know they have an intrinsic desire to stay alive, but mental illness has gotten them to a point that life is not worth living anymore. These are broken hearts that are still beating after the crisis and any other crises that will follow. Can they be mended? What can you and I do to prevent suicide?
I often remind my patients that even though I cannot fix the crisis that occurred, I (and other staff) bear the hope, healing, and love that they too can overcome the crisis and live their lives to the fullest. Given that not all the patients are Christians, quietly, I always implore Saint Dymphna, who is revered as the patron saint of those with mental illness or nervous disorders, to offer her "powerful intercession with Jesus through Mary" for all suffering from mental illness. These are broken hearts still beating.
"We must be signs of hope and healing in the midst of the cultural reality in which we find ourselves."
Ann Rutan, CSJP