Suicide education and prevention in the church


Suicide is in the news these days. Military suicides are off the charts. Bullied teens are in the news this week along with a nationally known pastor’s son. Suicide is an important topic! We need to talk about why, for some, suicidal thoughts (fairly common across the population) become plans and actions. We need to explore what helps reduce suicide as a desirable option. We need to talk about how to care for those left after the horror of suicide.

But here’s a question: Have you ever heard a sermon or a Sunday School lesson on the topic of suicide?

I can’t say that I have.

This week I was sent a survey about graduate theological education and suicide assessment and prevention training. Our counseling students get a bit of education on suicide assessment in a couple different courses. They read an article or two on the topic. Not really enough but our challenge is to know what to cut in order to fit more suicide material into the program.

The result is that most learn in the middle of a crisis. Not really the best plan.

If you are looking for materials, let me point you to a few:

1. National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.

2. CCEF. Use their search tool to find their resources in this packed website (some free, some cost a bit). Jeff Black’s article on understanding suicide is helpful. There are several blogs that are free.

3. Al Hsu’s book, “Grieving a Suicide.”

4. American Foundation For Suicide Prevention.

If you google suicide and christian, you will notice that the vast majority of material is about whether or not suicided individuals can still go to heaven. While this is an important question, it appears that we have spent more time on this topic than on that of prevention and intervention.

Maybe we can do a bit better than this? Let’s commit to talking about it rather than being afraid.

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7 Comments

Filed under Depression, Psychology

7 responses to “Suicide education and prevention in the church

  1. I LOVE this blog! Thank you for all the wonderful resources.

  2. I also read this, which I thought was interesting. It’s how I heard about Matthew Warren: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/04/07/my-take-how-churches-can-respond-to-mental-illness

  3. ebonyjohanna

    Great piece! You are absolutely right, this is something that needs to be talked about in the church. There is so much stigma associated with suicide, which I think is a barrier to talking about it.

  4. Thanks for the post and the Blog Phil. You might want to add Lifeline to your list of resources – http://www.lifeline.org.au/Get-Help/Facts—Information/Preventing-Suicide/Preventing-Suicide
    I have been a Lifeline Telephone crisis counsellor for 5 years, often speaking to Christians in very dark places in their lives. I preached three sermons from Job on mental illness fairly recently and someone in the congregation with chronic depression commented that in forty years he had never heard the word suicide mentioned from the pulpit.

  5. as a christian and a mama but not as a therapist or professional in this field whatsoever…i can tell you that this is a very big fear of mine-and i am fully aware of the fact that this fear in me…might be cause for my OWN need for therapeutic intervention…maybe what people are afraid of when learning about suicide…is the idea that ‘if i know about it and how to deal with it, maybe its going to touch my life…’ you might need to know me and now my mind works to understand that…i have had this article in my inbox unopened since it arrived…but i couldn’t delete it…this morning after a night of pretty lengthy worrying about my son…who incidentally is in the military (imagine how that went over as one of the first lines in this article) and all i can think of (yes because i worry too much-probably most assuredly unnecessarily…) all i can think of-is that i needed to read this article because that IS what my son thinks about-and god is trying to prepare me…who needs more help? my very grouchy and embittered son who lives 3000 kms away from me? or me? his insanely worried mother? how do you really know if this is a real risk in your child?

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  7. Pingback: Suicide education and prevention in the church | Private Pain: Living With A Suicidal Spouse

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