Anchor of Hope: Counseling ‘believers in Israel’ in troubled times

Anchor of Hope is a counseling center, and we are a biblical counseling center, so we are always moving in the direction of forgiveness and repentance and our counseling is based on the word of God.

Katherine Snyder at the Anchor of Hope Counseling Center in Jerusalem. (photo credit: PAUL CALVERT)
Katherine Snyder at the Anchor of Hope Counseling Center in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: PAUL CALVERT)
In 2014, my best friend committed suicide. It was a very difficult time for me, full of sadness – the loss of a friend and lost dreams. My best friend was 24 years old. A few months ago, someone else I knew also committed suicide. I didn’t know him well but his death had an impact of sadness upon me. He was also 24 years old. The Anchor of Hope Counseling Center in Jerusalem says on its website, “It takes courage to grow and find healing in troubled times. We are here to help believers in Israel find hope and a renewed sense of God’s loving care.” So I was happy to do this interview with Katherine Snyder from Anchor of Hope, and my prayer is that it will help someone.

What is Anchor of Hope?
Anchor of Hope is a counseling center, and we are a biblical counseling center, so we are always moving in the direction of forgiveness and repentance and our counseling is based on the word of God. We are trained to help people, families and individuals. We began in 2013 and we have helped people from all over the body in Israel and we are grateful that we can do this and be an ambassador of the Lord’s healing in people’s lives.

How do you counsel people struggling with suicidal thoughts?
Yes, its part of our assessment, when people call in for counseling we ask them if they have suicidal thoughts. If they have suicidal thoughts but there is no plan then we explore those thoughts with them when they come and we go in deeper. If there is a plan, and I mean a developed plan and not something that is fanciful like I will buy a Boa constrictor and have it bite me – that is not a plan, the plan is taking pills or jumping off a cliff or something like that – then we immediately get them help, we take them to the emergency room. If it comes up in counseling we take them to the emergency room if they have a plan, and I would say to people who are reading, if someone talks suicide and they do have a reasonable plan, if you are going to make a mistake, make a mistake on the side of caution and take them to the emergency room where they can get evaluated by a psychiatrist, take it seriously!
Sometimes people don’t take it seriously but it is and the cut-off line is if they have a plan and that is legal. Legally that is the cut-off line, the police will take people to the hospital, if you call them, if they have a plan and that is here in Israel, that is in the UK, that is in America, so it is a standard procedure.

Is it something someone struggles with all their life or is it because of a situation that comes into their life at a specific time?
It can be both. It can be that a person has been struggling, there can be mental health issues, there can be spiritual battles, it can be unresolved issues that have come up and then something happens in their life that makes it more exaggerated, or more intense for them and at that point they feel very overcome, they look at suicide as a coping mechanism, they think that is the way to cope with this terrible pain their feeling, it can come through family lines if there has been suicide in the family, that is another risk factor, if they don’t have social support in their life, if they are isolated, these are all factors that would maybe lead to suicide.

Is there a specific age where suicide is more prevalent?
There are statistics that show that people in their 20s can be vulnerable to suicide, but also when people are elderly and alone and if they receive a diagnosis of chronic illnesses and if they are isolated. So you have the 20-year-olds on the one end of the spectrum,and on the other end, the elderly.

Are there signs to look for?
Yes, well, if people start, if there has been a depression, even a low-level depression that goes on for a long time, if they are talking about death, if they are talking about how easy it would be just to end it all, once people start talking about suicide this is definitely a big red flag, Now I will say this about suicide, there are two types of people, One type they start talking about it, they want to seek help and you can do something with those people, you can help them, the other type of suicide is someone goes to a party or social gathering, they are fine and then they come home and commit suicide, they have hidden their pain so well that no one can help them and you cannot help these people and it is never anyone else’s fault, they have free will and they have made a choice. Now you might say that they are not in their right mind and I think that is true, we will never know what is in someone’s mind that it completely gets taken over, Spiritually, emotionally, psychologically with this idea that they cannot handle the pain.

Is the key talking, if someone is struggling?
If they are willing to talk! I mean that is one of the keys, well you have to find out what is going on, Now is it something that is physical, severe depression can be physical, it can be a chemical imbalance, so you have to involve the medical community when there is depression, but if in counseling, yes you want to talk about it, you want to kind of be a container for their grief and their loss, what are the roots of this? And you know we have definitely helped people, we have taken them to the emergency room, we have talked it out and as councilors we have what is called a no harm contract, that if they start getting suicidal thoughts, they contract to call us or people on their emergency list so that they are immediately reaching out, they are not alone and if they are willing to take that step, that leap into reaching out they can be helped.

The feeling of hopelessness – is it a spiritual battle?
Of course it is a spiritual battle and it is not limited to those who are tempted or dealing with suicidal thoughts, but there is a sense that ‘I cannot deal with this and that I cannot cope’ and that they are overcome with despair. That’s definitely a part of it.

Have you seen people come to you feeling hopeless but after counseling it’s changed their life?
Oh definitely, our counseling center is Anchor of Hope so we consider ourselves emissaries of hope. We have had people come who have been addicted, people who have felt that there was no possibilities for them and through counseling and through accompanying them on their journey and through helping them understand their life and seeing also where their mis-beliefs and their expectations of themselves have been unrealistic and have caused them great guilt and regret, all of this comes to the light and they are able to see it in a new light, sometimes they have to forgive people, sometimes they need to seek forgiveness, often there is some repentance involved, all that put together really helps people to come through.
That must be really exciting because you are actually giving people a hope and a future.
Yes, it’s very fulfilling, we feel that we are joining Jesus in his mission to heal the broken hearted and to restore the devastation of generations and repair the ruined cities.

Do you have people who come back to you and tell you that they were close to suicide but because of what you said and what you did, you helped me?
Yes, we have had people who have come back and they have said they feel renewed, they are more stable, they have connected with family and congregation and so we have had many good reports.

Do families feel guilt for not recognizing the pain, because of course it is family that have to struggle and cope with a suicide?
Usually in grief, and in any grief situation, people have regrets, that seems to be part of grief, you think of things you could have done, you could have said, But this, people feel responsible and they can have post-traumatic stress disorder, its very traumatic to be surviving a suicide, so they definitely feel responsible, it is a false guilt, real guilt is when you have done something wrong, false guilt is when you feel responsible for something you had no control over. So there is a lot of false guilt and that is not from the Lord.

What is your prayer today for someone who is struggling suicide thoughts?
My prayer for them would be that the Lord would give them courage to reach out and get help and be honest about the pain that they are feeling, that they are not alone, that God is greater, that there are people there who will help and walk beside them and that this is not insurmountable and it is not inevitable and that they need to come into the community of believers.

What is your website for people who’d like to know more about your work or perhaps be struggling themselves.?
www.anchorofhope.org.il
The writer is a British journalist working in Israel