Churches to receive suicide prevention guidance

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Tuesday, October 7th, 2014
Over a thousand churches across Northern Ireland are set to receive new guidance on suicide prevention, supporting people bereaved by suicide and promoting emotional wellbeing.

Pictured l-r Helen Gibson, PHA; Reverend Mervyn Ewing, Methodist Church in Ireland; Gabrielle Neilis PHA; Conor McCafferty, Zest and Jo Murphy, Lighthouse Ireland

Copies of ‘Suicide Prevention and Emotional Wellbeing – Pastoral Guidelines and Training Directory for Churches’ are being sent to churches across Northern Ireland by the partnership group Flourish! Flourish! is a partnership between Lighthouse Ireland, clergy from across the Christian churches in Northern Ireland, the Churches Community Work Alliance NI and the Public Health Agency (PHA). Madeline Heaney, Regional Lead for Mental Health Promotion with the PHA, said, “Clergy have a huge role to play in offering pastoral support during some of the most testing times in the lives of their congregations, be that due to illness, death, losing a job or family breakdown. “Their role gives them a unique opportunity to help those at risk of suicide by listening to them and directing them towards the help they need. However, this work goes further and also addresses the health and wellbeing needs of those offering support.” Jo Murphy, Manager of Lighthouse Ireland, said, The entire journey of Flourish!, since having the vision in 2011 of bringing churches together, to the inception and development of the initiative, has been a truly amazing journey. “Lighthouse set out to shine a light on the issue of suicide and the Flourish! initiative has ensured that this will happen,” Jo added. Reverend Mervyn Ewing from the Methodist Church in Ireland said: “Often clergy, lay pastors, youth workers and other church staff and volunteers find themselves overwhelmed when caring for people experiencing mental and emotional health difficulties and families bereaved by suicide. “These resources offer guidelines including Scripture passages and prayers that have been prepared thoughtfully and carefully which help the pastoral carer to respond sensitively and appropriately to people affected by suicide. Reverend Mervyn added, “The guidelines help to remove the sense of isolation and include a comprehensive list of contact details for other agencies who will offer specialist and ongoing support.” Flourish! is also offering a range of training courses as practical support to help churches respond to vulnerable people. Training includes newly-developed faith-based modules and other existing training such as Mood Matters, Mental Health First Aid, self-harm awareness, SafeTALK and ASIST courses across Northern Ireland. For further information on Flourish! visit If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000. This is a confidential service, where trained counsellors will listen and help immediately on the phone and follow up with other support if necessary. The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also access the Lifeline website at
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