The Role of the Clergy in Preventing Suicide
Every day, as a member of the clergy, you provide pastoral support to people facing life’s greatest challenges such as illness, death, job loss and family breakdown. On a daily basis you help people find meaning and a sense of hope in their lives.
This unique role offers an opportunity to help people at risk of suicide, who may not initially seek support from mental health professionals or even from family members. By listening to people and getting them the help they need, you can make a difference.
You have an opportunity to prevent suicide by taking threats seriously, recognising the warning signs of suicidal behaviour and ensuring people at risk of suicide access the most appropriate care and support.
6 Steps Clergy Can Take to Reduce Suicide Risk
Acknowledge your role in suicide prevention as a faith community leader.
Identify people who may be at risk of suicide.
Respond sensitively to people who may be at risk of suicide.
Support people at risk of suicide to seek the help they need from health professionals.
Be prepared to respond to a suicide death appropriately.
Consider getting involved in positive emotional wellbeing and mental health promotion and suicide prevention efforts in your local community.
Pastoral care can be important in helping a person through their pain and distress but you are not alone in providing support. By referring to mental health professionals and working with organisations whose focus is wellbeing and suicide prevention, you can help to reduce the number of lives lost to suicide.
As a faith community leader you are also well placed to play an active role in promoting positive mental health by fostering a sense of connection and belonging between people and by encouraging your church members to reach out to those who may be experiencing mental health problems.
To prepare for a suicide or attempted suicide by a church member become familiar with the health and mental health resources in your community. Try to develop a working relationship with local mental health professionals and community groups. You may need to find out more and discuss the particular needs of different groups such as young people, ethnic minorities and LGBT people.