We think of our churches as places of hope, where people gather to deepen their relationships with God and better understand His plan for their lives. Given the positive focus on the joy we feel through lives in Christ, it’s no surprise that few things trouble church leaders quite like members who die by suicide.

When a suicide happens, the immediate questions pastors and other leaders ask are “Why?” and “What could we have done to prevent the death?” We may never find the answers to the first question, but it’s important to explore the second. After all, at any time it’s likely there are people sitting in our pews who are thinking about ending their lives, and it’s not unusual for one person’s suicide to encourage others to make the same choice.

The church can and should play an important role in suicide prevention. Most people who are contemplating suicide reach out for help, but the signals they send are frequently misunderstood. They’re desperately seeking reasons to keep living, and there’s no better source for that guidance than the people focused on serving their spiritual well-being.

Care to Change recently hosted a suicide prevention/postvention training, and while it involved sharing large amount of information, what was even more valuable was the conversations it sparked. Participants drew upon their own experiences, talked of those around them who have been affected by suicide, and recalled the warning signs that were sadly missed along the way.

For too long, our society’s fear of suicide has led too many people and organizations — church leaders and churches among them — to avoid talking about the subject. But as we’ve learned, the more open we are about suicide and the more we bring it into the open, the better we’ll be at helping those who are in despair realize they are loved and their lives serve a purpose.

Care to Change can help by training your staff and members in a simple, proven approach to suicide prevention called QPR. In one brief session, we’ll explain how to determine whether someone may be thinking about killing themselves and how you can keep them from making that choice. Contacting us to learn more is the first step in saving lives.

If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately. If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255) or text to 741-741, and you’ll be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor.

LINKS: Learn more at:

https://www.sprc.org/sites/default/files/migrate/library/faith_dialogue.pdf

Jared Jones combines the use of cognitive and behavioral strategies to help young people who struggle with anxiety, depression and suicidal ideations.