Keith Hamilton (Director of ICPP), Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness & Bishop Donal McKeown
The deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, today said: “Churches have a vital role to play in helping to prevent suicide and providing pastoral care for those families and friends affected by suicide”.
Speaking to over 70 delegates at Suicide Prevention and Pastoral Care, a special event for clergy and people in leadership roles within churches he continued: “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. 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.”
The aim of the event was to equip clergy and people in leadership roles within churches to sensitively deal with suicide prevention and pastoral care. The keynote address was given by Prof Thomas Joiner, an academic psychologist and leading expert on the psychology and neurobiology of Mood Disorders, Suicide, and related conditions.
As well as the keynote address from Prof Joiner there was also a series of workshops and a panel discussion, including input from those who work in suicide prevention and those who have been bereaved by suicide. The event also heard a very moving address by Ms Barbara Swanston, from Vancouver, who is a parent bereaved by suicide.
Professor Joiner said: “My main message of hope is 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”. He continued: “We need to stride for near perfect cooperation 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.”
The event was organised by the Irish Churches Peace Project (ICPP), an initiative of the Methodist, Roman Catholic, and Presbyterian Churches, the Church of Ireland and the Irish Council of Churches. It took place on 9th October (9.30am – 2pm) in Clooney Hall, Derry / Londonderry.
Bishop Donal McKeown, Chair of the Irish Churches Peace Project stated: "We have organised this event because the tragedy of suicide has been highlighted as a priority concern”. He continued: “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."
The ICPP has been made possible by funding from the Special European Programmes Body (SEUPB) Peace III Programme, OFMDFM and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG).