1 in 3 Protestant Churchgoers Personally Affected by Suicide
Survey also finds one-third of victims were attending church before their death, but few pastors knew of their struggle.
by BOB SMIETANA
Suicide remains a taboo subject in many Protestant churches, despite the best efforts of pastors, according to a new study from LifeWay Research.
Eight in 10 Protestant senior pastors believe their church is equipped to intervene with someone who is threatening suicide.
Yet few people turn to the church for help before taking their own lives, according to their churchgoing friends and family. Only 4 percent of churchgoers who have lost a close friend or family member to suicide say church leaders were aware of their loved one’s struggles.
“Despite their best intentions, churches don’t always know how to help those facing mental health struggles,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.
A common tragedy
Suicide remains a commonplace tragedy, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 44,000 Americans took their own lives in 2015, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Americans ages 15 to 34, and the fourth leading cause of death for those 35 to 44.
…About a third of these suicide victims (35%) attended church at least monthly during the months prior to death, according to their friends and family. Yet few of those friends and family say church members (4%) or church leaders (4%) knew of their loved one’s struggles.
…Yet churchgoers are aware that friends and family of a person who dies by suicide can be isolated from the help they need because of the stigma of suicide. That can be true inside and outside the church, according to the survey.
More than half (55%) of churchgoers say people in their community are more likely to gossip about a suicide than to help a victim’s family. And few churchgoers say their church takes specific steps to address suicide or has resources to assist those experiencing a mental health crisis.
…Few churchgoers say their church is hostile to mental health concerns. More than half (54%) say their church encourages counseling, while only 2 percent say their church discourages counseling.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 1- 800- 273- 8255
Available 24 hours everyday