Suicide often has played a contentious role in faith traditions. Faith can be a strong factor in an individual’s recovery. However, when a person feels that they are in their darkest hour and that their faith appears to have deserted them, suicide may seem the only viable option remaining. It is then the responsibility of their faith community to neither condemn nor censure them, but to be understanding and supportive, to help the individual step back from the brink and regain their belief in the future.
NAMI has prepared a list of suicide awareness, responses and prevention resources for faith leaders.
Crisis Phone Numbers
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Phone: 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255)
TTY: 1 (800) 800-799-4889
Veterans Suicide Helpline
Phone: 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255) and press 1
American Association of Suicidology
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)
Mental Health America
Mental Health Ministries
Mental Health Ministry Toolkit
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Pathways to Promise
Suicide and Faith
Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE)
Suicide Prevention Resource Center
World Suicide Prevention Day: Sept. 10
National Suicide Prevention Week: Sept. 8 – 14
After a Suicide: Recommendations for Religious Services & Other Public Memorial Observances
How Faith Communities Can Provide Hope and Promote Healing
The Role of Faith Communities in Preventing Suicide
A Report of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) Interfaith Dialogue.
Suicide: Healing After the Death of a Loved One
ASIST – Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training
ASIST is a two-day intensive, interactive, and practice-dominated course designed to help individuals learn how to intervene with someone who is suicidal. ASIST is an evidence-based suicide intervention training created by LivingWorks Education, Inc. It is used extensively across the U.S. and internationally to train crisis line workers, mental health professionals, school staff, faith leaders, active duty military, and others who come in contact with at-risk populations. For more information on LivingWorks visit www.livingworks.net.
Suicide and Faith – A Free Faith Leader Training
Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in persons aged 25-34, the 3rd leading cause of death among people in the age groups 10-14 and 15-24, and the 8th leading cause of male deaths. Faith leaders and clergy have been identified as important front-line gatekeepers for suicide prevention. Yet they are often report being underprepared to handle faith members who are experiencing suicidal thoughts. Recognizing, assessing, and responding to risk can be very difficult. Unfortunately, there really is very little research about this area and few educational resources or support tools. Supported in part by a grant from the National Institute on Mental Health, a part of the National Institutes of Health, Suicide and Faith is developing courses and support tools to help faith leaders address suicide within their faith organizations.
Psychiatry and Religion: The Convergence of Mind and Spirit (Issues in Psychiatry)– James K. Boehnlein, M.D. (Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press, 2000).
Children of Jonah: personal stories by survivors of suicide attempts – Edited by James T. Clemons, Ph. D. Foreword by Judy Collins. (Sterling, VA, Capital Books, 2001).
Suicide: A Christian Response: Crucial Considerations for Choosing Life – Timothy J. Demy & Gary P. Stewart, editors. Foreword by Carl. F. H. Henry. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1998).
The Role of Faith Communities in Suicide Prevention: A Guidebook for Faith Leaders –Timothy Doty, Psy.D & Sally Spencer-Thomas, Psy.D., MNM. (Denver, Colo.: Carson J Spencer Foundation, 2009).
Life's worth: the case against assisted suicide – Arthur J. Dyck. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2002).
Grace for the afflicted: viewing mental illness through the eyes of faith – Matthew S. Stanford. (Colorado Springs: Paternoster 2008).
Suicide: pastoral responses – Loren L. Townsend, Daniel G. Bagby, editor. (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 2006).
DVDs and Videos
Fierce Goodbye: Living in the Shadow of Suicide – In this 2004 documentary produced by Mennonite Media, family members reveal their intimate stories and pain to assist other survivors and help the broader community understand the unique, terrible grief of suicide. It explores the Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Greek Orthodox responses to suicide and features Judy Collins, who lost her son to suicide, and psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamison, a suicide attempt survivor. A study guide and other helps for faith leaders are available at www.fiercegoodbye.com.
Teenage Depression – According to some studies, depression afflicts between 6 percent and 12 percent of American high school students. In children and adolescents, depression is easily missed unless parents, teachers, and medical personnel recognize its signs and symptoms. Without this knowledge, the first inkling a parent may have of the severity of a child's illness is the tragedy of a completed suicide. Families and professionals review symptoms and recommend appropriate actions when it is suspected that a child or adolescent is at risk.
Suicide: Healing After the Death of a Loved One – an inspiring couple who lost their son to suicide shares the story of their faith community’s support and how their painful experience is helping them reach out to others.