Learn, Share, Grow
A mental health toolkit for clergy and lay leaders
September 21, 2022

Welcome to Learn, Share, Grow, our quarterly mental health newsletter designed for faith leaders, like you. This issue includes information on suicide prevention, the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, and tips on how to respond to someone in emotional distress.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness: "...faith leaders tend to be some of our most frequent first responders in mental health crises — especially in communities of color. In the U.S., clergy outnumber psychiatrists by nearly 10 to 1 and are more equitably distributed geographically than health professionals."

As you stand on the frontlines, caring for the mental health needs your congregants and community members, we hope you find these resources helpful.

Please reach out to us with your questions, comments, and thoughts about future topics. We'd love to hear from you!

In partnership,

Amy McNicholas, Illinois Manager, Faith and Health Partnerships

Anya Gordon, Wisconsin Manager, Faith and Health Partnerships
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
Suicide Prevention Awareness Month provides an opportunity for faith communities to raise awareness about suicide, share vital resources, and learn how to support those in your congregation and community impacted by suicide.

According to the CDC, every individual who dies by suicide leaves behind an estimated six or more close family members, friends, and other loved ones. In 2020, for example, more than 46,000 Americans died by suicide. That means at least 276,000 people lost someone they cared deeply about in that year alone.

Suicide affects the wider community, as well. According to a study, for every U.S. suicide death, 135 people are exposed to that suicide. That can include co-workers, classmates, neighbors, and members of a person’s faith community.

You and your congregation can get involved during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – and yearlong – by:

Download and share these suicide prevention resources with members of your congregation and community.
988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline:
A direct connection to compassionate, accessible care

988 is more than just a simple, easy-to-remember number—it is a direct connection to compassionate, accessible care and support for anyone experiencing mental health related distress, whether that is thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress.

Individuals can call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org, 24/7, to get connected to a trained counselor who will listen, provide support, and connect them to resources if necessary.

African American faith leaders share their lived experiences, address stigma and the importance of using the 988 Suicide & Crises Lifeline in this public service announcement. Click here to view.
Ministering to Suicide Loss Survivors

Views about suicide have evolved over the years in faith communities. In the past, some congregations denied funeral rites for those who died by suicide. Others viewed suicide as a selfish act or mortal sin.

But today, faith communities operate with a more sensitive and compassionate approach to suicide, writes Jacob Lupfer in his Opinion, Suicide is not a sin to be judged.

“Religion at its worst sees [those who die by suicide] as sinners deserving of condemnation,” Lupfer writes. “At their best, faithful people and institutions compassionately accompany people contemplating suicide toward connection, openness, and treatment.”

When ministering to suicide loss survivors, It is important for faith leaders to understand that suicide bereavement is different, due to such factors as:

Circumstances of the loss – “A death by suicide is usually sudden, often unexpected and may be violent or physically disturbing, according to Alliance of Hope. “These factors increase the degree of shock and trauma experienced compared to many other types of bereavement.”

Stigma and isolation – “There is still a stigma attached to suicide, rooted in centuries of history and this generates misplaced associations of weakness, blame, shame or even sin or crime,” according to Alliance of Hope. “This stigma often prevents people from seeking help when they need it, and others from offering support when they want to help.”
Faith leaders can support suicide loss survivors by sharing the following:

Suicide Loss Survivors Support Groups:

LOSS Program Accompanies Suicide Loss Survivors on Their Journey to Healing

By Emily Tegenkamp

Catholic Charities’ Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide (LOSS) program was established 43 years ago by Father Charles Rubey and three families who lost children to suicide. At the time, there were not many resources available specifically for survivors of suicide loss, whose grief journey is much different.

While each story is unique, there are common elements that every suicide survivor experiences that have informed the program’s carefully and lovingly crafted services over the years.

The primary goal of the non-denominational program has always been to accompany people during a time of great need and give them hope that they will one day regain a sense of stability and joy. LOSS gives survivors the practical and compassionate help they need to learn to live with their tragic loss, enable them to celebrate and honor the life of their loved one, provide strength to create a new life for themselves and their families and, ultimately, to find a sense of peace and acceptance.

The program accomplishes this through support groups that are co-facilitated by survivors of suicide loss and mental health professionals, individual counseling, special programming and counseling for children and teens, events and other opportunities to memorialize loved ones, a writers’ group, grief speaker presentations, a bimonthly publication and ongoing pastoral support.

Beyond providing immeasurable hope to thousands of families, one of the major contributions of LOSS has been to help destigmatize suicide and mental illness.

When a young woman experienced a mental health crisis during choir practice recently, Geri Jones (pictured, right) knew what to do.

Geri, First Lady of St. Titus One Missionary Baptist Church, Chicago, immediately stopped choir practice. And over the next hour-and-a-half, she and the other choir members surrounded the woman, listened to her, and encouraged her as she shared her struggles.

Geri credits her quick response to the Listen. Love. Connect. mental health training series she had completed just four days before.

“I don't know how I would have responded if it hadn’t been for the training,” Geri said. “I might have told her, ‘We could talk tomorrow,’ but I told myself I wasn’t going to cut her off short. Nothing else mattered more than listening to her in that moment.”

Advocate Aurora Faith and Health Partnerships offers the Listen. Love. Connect. training series, which is designed to equip clergy and lay leaders to walk alongside congregants living with mental illness and substance use disorders.

The training meets a vital need – as congregants and community members oftentimes turn to clergy and lay leaders before seeking care from a mental health provider.

“The training series is critical because more and more people experiencing a mental health crisis are coming to our churches,” Geri said. “Congregations should be better prepared to help. If they need the assistance, God expects us to be there for them and help them in any way possible.”

Since receiving support, the woman is doing better, Geri said. “It was like a weight was lifted off her shoulders. It was all because we listened, walked beside her, and let her know she was not alone.”

“All it takes is one person to show they care,” Geri added. “It makes all the difference. If you could lighten the load for one person, what a difference you've made.”
5 Action Steps for Helping Someone in Emotional Pain

  1. Ask: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question but studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
  2. Keep them safe: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
  3. Be there: Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Research suggests acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts.
  4. Help them connect: Save the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline number (call or text 988) and the Crisis Text Line number (741741) in your phone so they’re there if you need them. You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.
  5. Stay connected: Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.

Resources for you and your faith community
Click on each resource to download, print and share with members of your community
Upcoming Events

Sept. 21, 2022, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Sponsored by The Partnership Center

Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, with 45,979 deaths in 2020. This is about one death every 11 minutes. Tragically, it is the 2nd leading cause of death among youth aged 10-14 and 25-34.* The good news is that suicide is preventable. Preventing suicide requires strategies for individuals, families, and communities. Everyone can help prevent suicide by learning the warning signs, promoting prevention, and knowing how to identify and support people at risk for suicide. Join the HHS Partnership Center and the Rainbow Project of Detroit Association of Black Organizations for this virtual 90 minute training designed for faith leaders, from diverse traditions, serving communities around the country. A certificate of attendance and CEU’s will be made available.

Sept. 23, noon - 1:30 p.m.

Sponsored by NAMI Southeast Wisconsin

Take a free suicide prevention training to learn:

  • How to Question, Persuade and Refer someone who may be suicidal
  • How to get help for yourself or learn more about preventing suicide
  • The common causes of suicidal behavior
  • The warning signs of suicide
  • How to get help for someone in crisis

Sept. 24, 10:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Lawndale Community Church
3827 West Ogden Avenue, Chicago

Sponsored by Overcoming Trauma Together Team

Healing from trauma is possible because with God - all things are possible.

It's time to make your healing journey a priority. Learn about recovery tools that work, and be inspired by testimonies of victory over abuse, betrayal, poverty, and loss. Share your questions about the healing journey and receive a free gift! Your story matters because you matter. God never meant for you to travel this recovery journey alone. We can Overcome - Together.

Sept. 26, noon-1:30 p.m.
Sponsored by National Council for Mental Wellbeing
Speaker Dustin Jepkema will explore the topic of suicide prevention within the LGBTQ+ Community. This event will include a discussion on expanding our typical definition of “suicide prevention,” as well as provide you with ways to identify how your organization can strengthen access and delivery of suicide care and promote a protective environment. 

Sept. 28, Oct. 19, or Nov. 16

Sponsored by Pathways to Promise

Companionship is a ministry of presence, a relationship responding to isolation and suffering and supportive of healing and recovery. Companionship welcomes the stranger, building a circle of care with individuals who are facing emotional and mental health challenges. Companionship is rooted in our natural capacities as human beings to be sensitive, compassionate and concerned.

Oct. 9, beginning at 11:00 p.m. Runs through Oct. 10

Sponsored by Hope Made Strong

Curious about the schedule? There is no schedule… yep, you read that right. All talks open, all day, for free

Four tracks of the summit:

  • Global health: Cultural perspectives and supporting those who serve in missions around the world
  • Community health: Equipping churches to support those struggling with mental health in their community
  • Church health: Building a church culture that supports and serves mental health through programs and ministries
  • Leadership health: Strengthening leader’s mental health and addressing impacts of ministry
Advocate Aurora Health
Faith and Health Partnerships

We work side-by-side with faith communities to promote health equity by mobilizing the transforming power of social connectedness and spiritual wisdom.

Our core belief: Drawing on the wisdom of our religious traditions and the best social and public health science, we believe that positive, mutual relationships and the intentional practice of faith are at the heart of what creates equitable health and well-being for individuals, congregations and communities.

Learn more about our work in English and Spanish.
We blend the strengths of Advocate Aurora Health with the strengths of your congregation to improve the health of those living in your community.