In 2018, the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recommended that PC(USA) congregations take several steps to engage in the work of suicide prevention, as follows:
- Encourage the leadership of each congregation to acknowledge the challenges caused by suicide deaths by addressing them in prayers, sermons, educational events, and conversations.
- Provide support for those who are suicidal or have attempted suicide.
- Engage families of those who have lost loved ones to suicide, responding faithfully to the impact of grief, loss, stigma, and isolation, all of which burden suicide survivors (those who have lost family, friends, or other loved ones to suicide).
- Acknowledge the church’s role in contributing to the stigma and silence that envelops the topic of suicide.
- Recognize and share the Gospel message of life, hope, and resurrection in relation to suicide, in coordination with professional and medical assistance.
- Learn how to recognize signs of suicidal intention and know local treatment and prevention services as well as how to make a referral.
- Participate in events like National Suicide Prevention Month in September,1 the International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day in November,2 and the Faith Communities events of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.3
- Encourage church members to participate in training such as Mental Health First Aid, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), and Soul Shop training for faith leaders.
- Create partnerships with government agencies, legislators, law enforcement, schools, funeral homes, and national and local suicide prevention organizations to provide practical and spiritual help for individuals and families coping with mental health disorders and with loss to suicide.
- Host Suicide Survivors groups, suicide prevention trainings, and participating in community awareness of suicide loss and prevention.
- Direct the General Assembly to publish the list of resources found in the rationale in all online denominational resources to congregations.
Suicide Prevention Resources
Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Promote National Suicide Prevention Month (September). Messaging, brochures and other resources. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/promote-national-suicide-prevention-month/.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Survivor Day (International Survivors of Suicide Loss) https://afsp.org/find-support/ive-lost-someone/survivor-day/.
National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. Communities, Healthcare Systems, Messaging. http://actionallianceforsuicideprevention.org/faith-communities-task-force.
Cindy Dampier. Chicago Tribune. 6/10/18. “In the wake of the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, looking at suicide differently.” http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/sc-fam-suicide-misconceptions-kate-spade-0619-story.html.
Suicide Attempt Statistics. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). 2017 statistics. https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/.
2016 Facts and Figures. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. https://afsp.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/2016-National-Facts-Figures.pdf.
“Personal Stories: Never Be Ashamed of Seeking Help.” National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). https://www.nami.org/Personal-Stories/Never-Be-Ashamed-of-Seeking-Help.
Deuteronomy 30:19b. NRSV: Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.
“Is suicide a sin?” U.S. Catholic, October 2014. http://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201410/suicide-sin-29503 and Monica A. Coleman, “Suicide leaves scars, not the stain of sin.” Commentary from Religion News Service appearing in The Presbyterian Outlook. 9/29/16. https://pres-outlook.org/2016/09/suicide-leaves-scars-not-stain-sin-commentary/.
Faith Communities. Suicide Prevention Resource Center. https://www.sprc.org/settings/faith-communities.