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The Role of Faith Communities in Suicide Prevention

31 Aug 2018 — 2 min read

BY Brandon Johnson, Melinda Moore

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What I Want People to Know About My Suicide Attempt

Aug. 31, 2018- Nearly 45,000 Americans die by suicide every year and frequently do so feeling alone and like a burden to those who love them most. We rarely think of places of worship as suicide prevention partners, but could they be? Why don’t more faith communities engage in suicide prevention?

The Action Alliance’s National Weekend of Prayer for Faith, Hope, & Life, held September 7 - 9, 2018, is an opportunity for faith communities to include in their regular weekly gatherings a time to focus on those who may be suicidal, have lost someone to suicide, or are at risk. The goal is to increase support and a sense of belonging for these individuals while promoting hope, resiliency, and recovery for all during September (National Suicide Prevention Month) and all year round.

For a large proportion of individuals in the U.S., a faith leader is the first person they turn to in a crisis—often times, before mental health providers, crisis services, friends or family members. Unfortunately, faith leaders often have little training in responding to a mental health crisis and even less in helping members who are struggling with suicidal thoughts and urges. Even in faith communities that provide mental health-focused ministries, one gap remains: the lack of attention to suicide risk. The Action Alliance’s Faith Communities Task Force aims to change that by equipping faith leaders and churches with resources, and inspiring them to engage in suicide prevention efforts. Faith leaders may participate in the National Weekend of Prayer for Faith, Hope, and Life; sponsor screening days and support groups; or institute a church-based mental health service.

During the National Weekend of Prayer for Faith, Hope, and Life, faith leaders and the communities they serve will be encouraged to say prayers that include each of these three messages: 1) an acknowledgment that the pain felt by the struggling individual is real, 2) reassurance that they are not alone, and 3) expressions of hope: that through faith and with the support of others in the community, there is a path toward a better life in the future. A guide for these prayers has been developed specifically for the National Weekend of Prayer for Faith, Hope, & Life. Additional resources, such as bulletin inserts, template sermons, resources, and critical life-saving information can be found on the Faith.Hope.Life Campaign website.

Do your part to encourage faith communities to pledge to be part of this annual movement. If we are ever to address suicide fully, every member of our community must be part of the solution.

The National Weekend of Prayer is an initiative of the Faith Communities Task Force of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. For more information, click here.

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