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Our cultural background (school and workplace) has taught us to try to solve complex problems as individuals, instead of using the power of the group to solve problems and to bring about interpersonal change and conflict resolution.  In this Dispensation we’re told to consult in all things:

In all things it is necessary to consult. This matter should be forcibly stressed by thee, so that consultation may be observed by all. The intent of what hath been revealed from the Pen of the Most High is that consultation may be fully carried out among the friends, inasmuch as it is and will always be a cause of awareness and of awakening and a source of good and well-being.  (Baha’u’llah, Consultation, p. 93)

It requires active participation of all social sectors:

Effective efforts to create violence-free families require a partnership between men and women and the active participation of all social sectors. Strategies for redress and remedies must be designed to include the whole family, because the dynamics of family violence directly affect all its members.  (Bahá’í International Community, Creating Violence-Free Families, Summary Report of United Nations Symposium, May 1994)

Research and identify resources available in your area:

The National Assembly encourages Local Spiritual Assemblies to research and identify resources available in their area and to incorporate strong institutional support for programs of civil or criminal intervention in domestic violence. Such intervention, together with effective offender treatment programs, has been shown to curb violence and protect the abused, as well as help offenders improve their behavior.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 21)

This collaboration can take place with Local Spiritual Assemblies as well as:

Culture-Specific Organizations

Explore the meanings of abuse and battering to the persons involved since culture, race, and ethnicity influence how these terms are defined. For example, in some cultures, various forms of abuse are tolerated or have not been considered abuse and may even be regarded by both genders as rightful forms of discipline or as expressions of caring. Nevertheless, cultural acceptance does not render abusive behaviors harmless or legal.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 93)

Employee Assistance Programs 

Employee Assistance Programs in many workplaces also can help provide an environment of psychological safety because they can serve as the bridge between the employer and other resources, while providing oversight that the services promised are in fact being delivered. Employee Assistance Programs are able to provide mental health and health information in many different formats.

Physicians 

That effort can include the counsel of wise and experienced physicians, including psychiatrists.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p.285)

Unusual or sudden changes in thinking or behavior that cause problems may signal a mental or physical health change. Anyone who undergoes a personality change that results in unaccustomed problematic behavior should be encouraged to seek medical evaluation.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 14)

Support Groups 

Many trauma survivors have found comfort and assistance when attending a local support group for people who have had a similar experience.  This often includes Twelve Step Programs:

The Universal House of Justice…has instructed us to say that there is no objection to Bahá’ís being members of Alcoholics Anonymous, which is an association that does a great deal of good in assisting alcoholics to overcome their lamentable condition.  (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, August 26, 1986)

Bahá’ís in Recovery Fellowship is a group of Bahá’ís who, as individuals, share a belief in the Bahá’í teachings and the 12-step process (similar to the methods of Alcoholics Anonymous) of recovery from substance addiction. Although “BIRF” [Baha’is in Recovery Fellowship] is not sponsored by any Bahá’í institution, the National Assembly is aware of its activities and has no objection to individual Bahá’ís working with it. Thus, while the National Assembly does not endorse the ideas or methods of BIRF, it recognizes that individual Bahá’ís and Assemblies may find the ser-vices it offers useful in dealing with the problem of substance abuse.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada, September 11, 1991)

Anger Management Groups:

The Assembly should assist the person who abuses to obtain appropriate anger management counseling and/or join an offender treatment program. Good counseling programs assist abusers to become accountable and responsible for their behavior through confrontation and support for change with the assistance of trained facilitators, peers, and professional therapists in a safe and confidential environment.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 113)

Addictions Treament Programs: 

The Bahá’í community should feel free to call upon such agencies as Alcoholics Anonymous for assistance and upon public agencies who work with the problem but must realize that the greatest healing of this social and individual disease is God’s Cause which in its fullness will eliminate the causes of alcoholism.  (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer., 9 November, 1987)

In cases of abuse involving addictions, including sexual addiction, treatment by specialists in behavioral addictions may be advisable.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 113)

This National Assembly recognizes the difficulties that Bahá’ís with chemical or other dependencies face, and encourages them to consult and work with both the Bahá’í institutions and with competent medical or mental health professionals and support groups, in an effort to overcome those difficulties. While we realize that medical treatment will often be a necessary aspect of combating chemical dependencies or other addictions, we do not believe the Bahá’í teachings advocate one particular method of treatment over any other. It is, therefore, left to the individual to decide which doctors, counsellors or treatment programs are most effective for him or her personally. We instruct Local Assemblies that they may suggest various options to an individual with chemical dependencies, but should not sponsor, endorse or prescribe, whether explicitly or implicitly, BIRF, Alcoholics Anonymous, or any other specific method or technique of treatment or counselling.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada, September 11, 1991)

Suicide Prevention Programs:

A Local Assembly may one day be faced either with helping an individual or family try to avert a suicide or with helping family members and the community cope with one that has taken place. The role of the Local Assembly in regard to suicide is limited, because the urge to commit suicide is essentially a mental health problem involving complex processes for which Assemblies are neither mandated nor generally qualified to provide professional services.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 15)

In cases of attempted suicide, emergency medical help should be sought immediately by dialing 911 or any other local emergency number. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 15)

When confronted with a threat of suicide, it is essential that the Assembly not ignore or deny the possibility. If someone is suicidal:

  • He or she must not be left alone
  • The person should be urged to seek help immediately from his or her doctor, or the nearest hospital emergency room, or to call 911
  • If the person does not wish to make a phone call, someone else can do it and offer to drive him or her to a care facility or a doctor
  • Call the 24-hour, toll free, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800) 273-TALK ((800) 273-8255), which provides connection to a trained counselor at a local suicide crisis center (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 5)

For more information, please see Suicide 

What’s been your experience collaborating with other agencies?  Post your comments below!