While some faith leaders have a strong mental health background and are experienced counselors, many are not. Nonetheless, nearly all faith leaders bring abilities to help people connect, develop and sustain hope, and find acceptance and belonging even when they’re struggling to hold on, as well as the capacity to rally social and physical support for faith members in crisis.
While you may be the first person that someone in distress turns to, you also have people you can turn to for help.
It can be difficult to assess someone’s risk of suicide, even for psychotherapists who treat individuals with mental health issues daily. Many who are thinking about suicide have underlying mental health issues such as depression or bipolar disorder that require ongoing therapy and possibly medication prescribed by a prescribing health care professional (e.g. a physician, nurse, psychiatrist, etc.).
Establishing relationships with experienced counselors and mental healthcare providers can help smooth referrals between yourself and another professional when the need arises and open up opportunities for collaborative care. Both you and the mental health provider can capitalize on each other’s strengths.
Moreover, everyone in the community — including policy makers, school personnel, physical and mental health care providers, parents, and the media — can contribute to a reduction in suicides and suicide attempts by better understanding the components of suicide prevention and working together to support those at risk.