Protestant pastors surveyed about suicide prevention say their churches are equipped to tackle the issue but suicide remains a taboo topic within the church.
Eighty percent of senior pastors told LifeWay Research their church is equipped to intervene with someone who is threatening suicide. But only four percent of churchgoers who lost a friend or family member to suicide say church leaders were aware of their loved one’s struggles.
Researchers surveyed 1,000 Protestant senior pastors and 1,000 Protestant and nondenominational churchgoers who attend services at least once a month.
Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, says the study reveals that a lot more thought needs to go into how to communicate that the church is a safe place for people to talk about their struggles with suicide.
“There’s definitely an opportunity for the church to be a little more welcoming by just acknowledging that people are struggling and that we’re aware of that and we’re here to help,” he says. “We may not be able to solve every problem but we’re willing to walk with you through it.”
McConnell says the survey shows that many churches are neutral or don’t say anything about mental health.
“We talk about physical health all the time. It’s on the prayer list every week at pretty much every church,” he points out. “But there’s an opportunity to acknowledge that people are struggling with mental health as well and that there are resources to help.”
The study was sponsored by the American Association of Christian Counselors; Liberty University Graduate Counseling program; the Liberty University School of Medicine; and the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Read more at LifeWay survey: Suicide remains taboo topic at church.