Module 1: Suicide Prevention in Faith Organizations: An Important Opportunity

Three Opportunities to Address Suicide:
Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention

You can take broad, organizational steps to reduce suicide risk across your faith community, even in the absence of an immediate situation or crisis.

Prevention: Proactively Reducing RiskPrevention

You can take broad, organizational steps to reduce suicide risk across your faith community, even in the absence of an immediate situation or crisis.

These fall into two general categories: education and support, and organizational preparation.

Education and support can include conducting small group workshops or having brochures available, establishing events and activities that are likely to strengthen protective factors, like connectness. It can also include bigger picture activities like working toward the creation of a community that supports emotional and mental health and reduces stigma and other barriers to care, that honors life and honors elders, that promotes inclusion, and that restricts access to firearms and other lethal means of suicide.

Organizational preparation addresses establishing and maintaining procedures and resources to handle a suicide-related event–ranging from someone struggling with suicidal ideation, to an attempted suicide, to supporting members of your faith community through grief after a death by suicide.

Are there activities you can plan or steps you can take to increase suicide awareness, increase protective factors, and decrease risk? Have you considered educational events? Perhaps integration of suicide or mental health within a sermon or corporate prayers? How prepared is your faith organization? Could it be better prepared? Are there procedures you can put into place to improve how you respond if and when a suicide-related event occurs?

Intervention: Identifying and Counseling Those At Increased RiskIntervention

You can also identify and counsel faith members who are at increased suicide risk. When you and the members of your faith community are attuned to suicide warning signs, risk factors, and trigger events, people at-risk may be identified earlier and helped. Helping someone at risk can be challenging. However, there are some important questions to ask, effective ways of asking them, and vital steps to take to increase the likelihood that you will successfully support someone struggling with suicide.

Do you actively monitor for risk among your faith community? Do you know the warning signs and risk factors to watch for? Do you feel comfortable approaching a faith member when you think they are at risk? Do you know key questions to ask, and how to ask them? How to counsel? Monitoring for risk and responding to risk are two very important parts of addressing suicide in your faith organization.

Postvention: Supporting the Grieving and Healing Process Among Those Affected by SuicidePostvention

Suicidal ideation and behaviors affect a large number of people beyond the person experiencing suicidal thoughts, the person who attempts suicide, or the person who dies by suicide. Suicidal behaviors leave friends, family, and community members struggling to understand and respond to the behavior and to make sense of and work through their own reactions to it. Because suicide is such a complex human behavior for which there is often not one clearly identifiable cause, survivors can often find themselves searching for a reason when no rational one may exist, they may blame themselves, they may blame others, they may need a clear avenue for expressing grief, for coming to terms with their emotions, for seeking support.

Faith, hope, connectedness, purpose, support. What are some steps you can take in the aftermath of a suicide event that can help your faith community? Are there things you should not do? How do you counsel and support those struggling to cope with suicidal events in your community?

Suicide Prevention, Intervention, & Postvention: Recognizing Opportunities »