How Church Can Prevent Suicides

Birmingham minister’s campaign calls for increased training on mental health, highlights issues men face and says why praying with people is not enough - by Marcia Dixon

SUPPORT: 'Churches need that awareness that suicide amongst men is an issue,' says one minister

THE PUBLIC has been shocked by the recent death of Keith Flint, the lead singer of pioneering 1990s electronic group The Prodigy, who took his own life.

However, if people were more aware of mental health issues they would know that suicide is one of the major causes of death in men.

DISTRESS

In recent months there have been moves to open up discussion about mental health issues, especially among men – as they are less likely to utilise mental health services compared to women, and have the highest suicide rates.

Statistics compiled by The Samaritans, a charity which gives support to people experiencing emotional distress or at risk of suicide, show that there were 6,213 suicides in the UK and Republic of Ireland in 2017.

Men were three times as likely to take their own lives than women, and the highest suicide rate in the UK was among men aged 45-49.

Richard Anderson, a minister in charge of Christian education at Ark 4 Dominion Apostolic Ministries in Birmingham, is on a mission to get more churches talking about mental health and train leaders and members in suicide prevention.

PREVENTION: Richard Anderson helps to tackle male suicide

He runs ARC Housing and Social Care, which provides support services to vulnerable people, and he’s a trained Suicide Prevention First trainer, and gives talks at churches, charities and other organisations.

Richard has his own unique views on why men are more likely to commit suicide. He said: “In today’s society men don’t feel as though they fit, a lot of the time.

“Men are losing jobs, and when they get to over 40 it’s an age where they realise the dreams and aspirations they had aren’t going to come to fruition. There’s also a lot of family break-times round about this age, too.

ENGAGE

“Women go out and have pamper days and talk about their feelings, whereas men hardly organise anything similar.”

The training programme Richard teaches is called ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Training Skills) devised by Living Works. ASIST is held in such high regard it’s been adopted by the US army to deal with soldiers suffering from PSTD and battle stress.

ASIST training teaches participants how to recognise individuals at risk of suicide and how to engage with them to create a plan to make them safe.

This training could provide particularly helpful in the church – where helping people in distress as part of their DNA.

Richard said: “Gone are the days when you just pray with people. We need to engage with the person and also refer them to their GP as they may need other services.”

It’s Richard’s hope that churches takes steps to train their members to recognise the signs of those suffering mental distress: “Churches need that awareness that suicide amongst men is an issue and they also need to know who to direct people to.”

For more details of suicide prevention training, email andersonrichard76@gmail.com

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