Home Voices Necessary Conversations: The Church, Suicide, and Mental Health

Necessary Conversations: The Church, Suicide, and Mental Health

Some, but We Need More

Studies have revealed that churches are helping some people who struggle with mental illness: 53% of individuals with acute mental illness said their churches have been supportive, and among individuals with acute mental illness who attended church regularly as an adult, 67% said their churches have been supportive.

It is an encouragement to see that the faith community has been a place of support for those struggling with mental illness. Churchgoers also reported that a variety of mental health support events were held at their churches in the last year.

Forty-eight percent of people reported that churches “Taught youth the biblical truth that each person has unique value to God” and 31% said their churches “encouraged the congregation to continue supporting friends and family who have lost someone to suicide.” While these are good, we need more. As Christians, we need to be proactive in preventing those who are hurting from falling through the cracks. Creating spaces within the church—whether it’s an event, a community group, a testimony, a sermon, or a Sunday school lesson—is the first step in combatting this. 

Churches could use their facilities to host training seminars to better equip members to maintain a supportive friendship with those who struggle with mental illness. This does not require church leaders to have a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. It simply means pastors must be intentional about equipping their members to be good neighbors, locate helpful resources, and promote participation among the congregation.

Both Christian and other suicide prevention resources are available to help equip us to minister to those with mental illness. A simple, yet effective, method of training is helping Christians identify warning signs. Studies show that the majority of those who experience suicidal ideation talk to at least one person about the desire to end their lives. Equipping people to listen for and respond appropriately to suicidal thoughts can greatly reduce the rate of successful attempts.

Our Calling

Overall, our call as Christians in the midst of a suicide crisis comes from Jesus. When Jesus saw hurting people, he drew close to them, cared for them, and sent his disciples to care for them. Our call, then, is clear. We must seek out the broken even when it is messy and difficult. The church without the broken is a broken church. We are the agents of ministry led by the Holy Spirit to model the love of Jesus with the hurting and demonstrate the grace of a Savior who loves them dearly.

Auburn Powell assisted with this article.