An individual’s suicide can be such an unpredictable, hard-hitting shock to that person’s loved ones, often causing an uncomfortable, long-lasting cocktail of feelings for those left behind, according to one area individual.

When someone loses a relative or friend to suicide, that person can be overwhelmed by feelings of confusion, sadness, guilt, anger and more, said LaToya Shepherd, an outreach pastor who oversees the GriefShare support program at Heritage Church in Van Buren. The 14-week, faith-based program employs video presentations, testimonies, a workbook and, if the participants are comfortable enough to participate, opportunities to share to help in the healing process, she said.

“There is a lesson that touches upon suicide in this,” Shepherd said of the program, which is held at 3 p.m. Sundays at Heritage Church, 1604 E. Pointer Trail in Van Buren. “And in no way does this lesson condemn the person who committed suicide or the family of that person. Even with the program being Biblically based, the lesson is very helpful and very hopeful. It’s not condemning at all.”

In addition to outlining the GriefShare workbook for participants, Shepherd is able to use her real-life experience to help others cope with their loss and move through the grieving process.

“My former husband tried to commit suicide but wasn’t successful,” she said. “He lived and is now a certified counselor who works in Oklahoma and is helping people.

“But even if a person survives after trying to commit suicide, the family can feel guilty,” Shepherd added. “I’ve had some of the people in GriefShare say they feel guilty. Someone might say, ‘What did I do to make the person feel worse? What could I have done to help?’”

Those who are left behind shouldn’t feel guilty, although the grieving process is a natural experience for those individuals who are missing their departed family member or friend, she said.

Ryan Kaundart, a licensed professional counselor with the Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center, agreed.

“It is the $64,000 question — ‘Why?’” he said. “Loved ones do have guilt. Some of them feel responsible.”

Kaundart said his center has a plan in place for people who are contemplating suicide. He is involved in the Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center’s crisis team, which performs assessments of people who attempt suicide or give signs of potential attempts at suicide.

“We have a plan in place if the person needs it,” Kaundart said. “We look at the person to see if they are threatening to hurt themselves or are talking about killing themselves. If they say it, we are here to assist.”

The team’s plan looks to see if that individual has firearms and pills in the home, and who is living or spending time with the individual, he said.

“In 2016, there was a suicide every 12 minutes in the country,” Kaundart said. “Males were 77 percent of suicide deaths from hangings and shootings, and veterans were 20 percent of those suicides.”

Warning signs of possible suicide can include the individual talking or writing about feeling hopeless; these discussions and/or handwritten notes often can reveal that person’s “obsession” with feeling hopeless and/or abandoned, Kaundart said.

“Someone withdrawing from friends, family and society is a sign, also,” he said. “Isolation is a sign of depression, and that is a warning, (as are) sudden physical changes in appearance and habits, a loss of interest and no passion for anything. Someone seeing no reason to live and seeing no purpose in life obviously are huge concerns.”

These symptoms can result from environmental causes or “chemical-induced” causes, depending on the individual and his or her situation, Kaundart said. The individual can feel “hurt” due to events such as a divorce or “a custody battle gone wrong,” he said.

Shepherd holds similar views.

“With me and my former husband’s situation, it was an impending divorce,” she said. “Most of the time, it’s because of an addiction or some changes that make a person feel powerless. They feel like they are stuck in a situation.

“It can also be a job or economic situation or it can be a divorce and loss of family,” Shepherd added. “Mental-health issues that are left untreated also can be a cause for someone to think about suicide.”

Some people who experience thoughts of suicide are willing to talk to someone, while others are more guarded with their words, Kaundart said.

“We, as counselors, have to dig in there and find out why they’re hurt,” he said. “If they clam up, it might be more serious, so we’ll ask, ‘How long have you had these thoughts?’

“And many times, people who are thinking about suicide don’t want to kill themselves; that isn’t their goal,” Kaundart added. “They are saying, ‘I hurt and I want the pain to stop.’ It’s about that pain.”

There are some cases where the abuse of social media has played a major role in suicide of young children and teenagers, he said.

“When I grew up, we may have gotten bullied on the playground, but it didn’t happen online,” Kaundart said. “A lot of it is social access. People have access to social media 24/7, and bullying can occur there, unfortunately.”

Traditionally, males usually use “a more lethal way” than females while attempting suicide, he said. Many males will employ a gun for suicide, while many females will resort to pills, Kaundart said.

“There are three female attempts of suicide for every one male attempt,” he said. “Males traditionally choose a more lethal way with guns, but with pills, the stomach can be pumped and sometimes that person can be saved.”

“It’s about how we can get help to that person; we have to find them help,” Kaundart added. “Nine times out of 10, the person wil get help. There are mental health facilities for patients, and people can come back to us for counseling.”

Kaundart and his colleagues offer counseling that touches heavily upon the individual setting emotional, realistic expectations and being able to engage in practical problem-solving methods. Anyone needing counseling or information can call the Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center at (479) 452-6650.

“We always side on caution when it comes to this topic,” Kaundart said. “We do have the Crisis Intervention Center now, so we can get people help, and we also have Mercy across the street from us if the person needs immediate medical help.”

Shepherd said she is hopeful that those who are thinking about or affected by suicide can receive help, adding that anyone needing information on GriefShare can call her at (479) 474-6424.

“It’s said that there’s suicide in the world,” she said. “We have to pray for others. We have to help people any way we can.”

An individual’s suicide can be such an unpredictable, hard-hitting shock to that person’s loved ones, often causing an uncomfortable, long-lasting cocktail of feelings for those left behind, according to one area individual.

When someone loses a relative or friend to suicide, that person can be overwhelmed by feelings of confusion, sadness, guilt, anger and more, said LaToya Shepherd, an outreach pastor who oversees the GriefShare support program at Heritage Church in Van Buren. The 14-week, faith-based program employs video presentations, testimonies, a workbook and, if the participants are comfortable enough to participate, opportunities to share to help in the healing process, she said.

“There is a lesson that touches upon suicide in this,” Shepherd said of the program, which is held at 3 p.m. Sundays at Heritage Church, 1604 E. Pointer Trail in Van Buren. “And in no way does this lesson condemn the person who committed suicide or the family of that person. Even with the program being Biblically based, the lesson is very helpful and very hopeful. It’s not condemning at all.”

In addition to outlining the GriefShare workbook for participants, Shepherd is able to use her real-life experience to help others cope with their loss and move through the grieving process.

“My former husband tried to commit suicide but wasn’t successful,” she said. “He lived and is now a certified counselor who works in Oklahoma and is helping people.

“But even if a person survives after trying to commit suicide, the family can feel guilty,” Shepherd added. “I’ve had some of the people in GriefShare say they feel guilty. Someone might say, ‘What did I do to make the person feel worse? What could I have done to help?’”

Those who are left behind shouldn’t feel guilty, although the grieving process is a natural experience for those individuals who are missing their departed family member or friend, she said.

Ryan Kaundart, a licensed professional counselor with the Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center, agreed.

“It is the $64,000 question — ‘Why?’” he said. “Loved ones do have guilt. Some of them feel responsible.”

Kaundart said his center has a plan in place for people who are contemplating suicide. He is involved in the Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center’s crisis team, which performs assessments of people who attempt suicide or give signs of potential attempts at suicide.

“We have a plan in place if the person needs it,” Kaundart said. “We look at the person to see if they are threatening to hurt themselves or are talking about killing themselves. If they say it, we are here to assist.”

The team’s plan looks to see if that individual has firearms and pills in the home, and who is living or spending time with the individual, he said.

“In 2016, there was a suicide every 12 minutes in the country,” Kaundart said. “Males were 77 percent of suicide deaths from hangings and shootings, and veterans were 20 percent of those suicides.”

Warning signs of possible suicide can include the individual talking or writing about feeling hopeless; these discussions and/or handwritten notes often can reveal that person’s “obsession” with feeling hopeless and/or abandoned, Kaundart said.

“Someone withdrawing from friends, family and society is a sign, also,” he said. “Isolation is a sign of depression, and that is a warning, (as are) sudden physical changes in appearance and habits, a loss of interest and no passion for anything. Someone seeing no reason to live and seeing no purpose in life obviously are huge concerns.”

These symptoms can result from environmental causes or “chemical-induced” causes, depending on the individual and his or her situation, Kaundart said. The individual can feel “hurt” due to events such as a divorce or “a custody battle gone wrong,” he said.

Shepherd holds similar views.

“With me and my former husband’s situation, it was an impending divorce,” she said. “Most of the time, it’s because of an addiction or some changes that make a person feel powerless. They feel like they are stuck in a situation.

“It can also be a job or economic situation or it can be a divorce and loss of family,” Shepherd added. “Mental-health issues that are left untreated also can be a cause for someone to think about suicide.”

Some people who experience thoughts of suicide are willing to talk to someone, while others are more guarded with their words, Kaundart said.

“We, as counselors, have to dig in there and find out why they’re hurt,” he said. “If they clam up, it might be more serious, so we’ll ask, ‘How long have you had these thoughts?’

“And many times, people who are thinking about suicide don’t want to kill themselves; that isn’t their goal,” Kaundart added. “They are saying, ‘I hurt and I want the pain to stop.’ It’s about that pain.”

There are some cases where the abuse of social media has played a major role in suicide of young children and teenagers, he said.

“When I grew up, we may have gotten bullied on the playground, but it didn’t happen online,” Kaundart said. “A lot of it is social access. People have access to social media 24/7, and bullying can occur there, unfortunately.”

Traditionally, males usually use “a more lethal way” than females while attempting suicide, he said. Many males will employ a gun for suicide, while many females will resort to pills, Kaundart said.

“There are three female attempts of suicide for every one male attempt,” he said. “Males traditionally choose a more lethal way with guns, but with pills, the stomach can be pumped and sometimes that person can be saved.”

“It’s about how we can get help to that person; we have to find them help,” Kaundart added. “Nine times out of 10, the person wil get help. There are mental health facilities for patients, and people can come back to us for counseling.”

Kaundart and his colleagues offer counseling that touches heavily upon the individual setting emotional, realistic expectations and being able to engage in practical problem-solving methods. Anyone needing counseling or information can call the Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center at (479) 452-6650.

“We always side on caution when it comes to this topic,” Kaundart said. “We do have the Crisis Intervention Center now, so we can get people help, and we also have Mercy across the street from us if the person needs immediate medical help.”

Shepherd said she is hopeful that those who are thinking about or affected by suicide can receive help, adding that anyone needing information on GriefShare can call her at (479) 474-6424.

“It’s said that there’s suicide in the world,” she said. “We have to pray for others. We have to help people any way we can.”