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Church has “particular responsibility” to tackle suicide 10.10.13

THE Church has a responsibility to "show leadership" in suicide prevention and pastoral care for people affected by suicide, a cross-border seminar has heard.
The conference, entitled 'Suicide Prevention and Pastoral Care', was organised by the Irish Churches Peace Project - a publicly-funded initiative of the Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian and Church of Ireland churches.
The keynote guest was US psychologist Professor Thomas Joiner, a leading expert on the psychology of mood disorders, suicide and related conditions.
Chair of the Irish Churches Peace Project, Bishop Donal McKeown said the event was organised because suicide had been highlighted to them as "a priority concern".
“All those who are feeling suicidal or experiencing mental health problems need to know that there is a wide range of resources available to them in their local community and churches have a particular responsibility to show leadership and get that message out," said Bishop McKeown, auxiliary Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor.
Prof Joiner told more than 70 delegates at the seminar in Derry that his main message was that "suicide is preventable".
“People get better from mental health crises. Promoting help-seeking and the immediate availability of the right treatment and community understanding are the keys to success," said Prof Joiner.
“We need to stride for near perfect co-operation at crisis point and way before crisis, ensuring the safety net is wide and strong. Breaking the taboo of silence on the need for help when times are tough is so important. In the wider community, quest for hope and support to break the deadly isolation of burdensomeness, isolation and consequent distress and despair," he added.
The inter-church committee representing the Irish Council of Churches and the Irish Episcopal Conference added:
“As churches we need to build on our existing ministry of listening and pastoral care with training and support specific to suicide prevention, informed by bereaved families and up-to-date evidence-based practice.”
Meanwhile, the seminar was also addressed by the North's Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness MLA.
He said churches had "a vital role to play in helping to prevent suicide and providing pastoral care for those families and friends affected by suicide”.
“Reducing the risk of suicide and building the capacity to cope with circumstances that drive so many people in our society to take their own lives requires collaboration and partnership working," said Mr McGuinness.
"We need to work across government and across all sections of society, including churches, faith groups, the private and community sector as well as with those affected by suicide to help prevent this tragic loss of life," he said.
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