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Churches seek to work together to reduce suicide risk

By Sarah Mac Donald - 08 October, 2013

candleeml-390x285Member Churches of the Irish Council of Churches and the Irish Episcopal Conference have pledged to work together to reduce the risk of suicide in Ireland.  

In a statement issued in advance of the Suicide Prevention and Pastoral Care Seminar for Clergy on Wednesday in Derry, the Inter–Church Committee said “The problem of suicide across the island of Ireland represents immense personal tragedy for families and communities.”

The statement continued, “Church leaders and faith communities are acutely aware of the devastating suffering that follows the loss of every life through suicide.”

The Inter–Church Committee said that together they have been reflecting on how they can best apply their resources of pastoral care, love and community, in cooperation with leadership across civic society, “to prevent suicide by addressing the root causes of this most human of problems.”

The Suicide Prevention and Pastoral Care Seminar is being 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.

In their statement, the Church representatives said they wished to acknowledge the complexity of suicide and the need to work for suicide prevention with open hearts and informed minds. 

“A person dies by suicide when they run out of strategies to cope with immense pain. An important truth emerging from the research and experience of crisis mental health services exposes the idea of ‘choosing to die by suicide’ as a mistaken assumption.”

“Many people who die by suicide do so in the belief that there is no other choice. Everyone has a role to play ensuring those suffering in this way know they are not alone and that professional and pastoral supports are available to them in our local communities.”

They added, “As churches we need to build on our existing ministry of listening and pastoral care with training and support specific to suicide prevention, informed by bereaved families and up-to-date evidence-based practice.”

They urged the various Churches involved to encourage engagement with two important cross-border initiatives taking place in Derry city during the month of October.

The first of these is the faith leaders’ seminar on suicide organised by the Irish Churches’ Peace Project on 9 October and the second which is the ‘Building Resilience and Promoting Recovery’ conference, organised by the Irish Association of Suicidology and Contact on 10 October.

“The problem of suicide has no boundaries, bewildering and devastating communities across the island. Our coming together to share concerns, experiences and potential solutions, represents an important commitment to meaningfully address the problem of suicide with purpose and compassion.”

Equally vital is the examination of models and initiatives which have proven successful elsewhere in the world. The tragedy of suicide may feel personally overwhelming, but working and reflecting on this problem together we can find practical solutions for our communities.”

“As a society we owe a great debt of gratitude for the courage and generosity of all those who have been bereaved by suicide or who have experienced suicidal ideation, who now work tirelessly in our communities so that others might be spared this pain. Their commitment gives us hope and their courage is a powerful call to action.”

The Irish Churches Peace Project (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).

The Irish Inter Church Committee is part of the formal meeting structure between the Irish Council of Churches and the Irish Episcopal Conference to develop and provide a voice for Ireland’s Churches to connect through a common belief in Christ.

It is co-chaired by Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Catholic Primate of All Ireland, and Rev Fr Godfrey O’Donnell, President of the Irish Council of Churches.

Churches that are currently represented are: the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, the Antiochian Orthodox Church, the Church of Ireland, the Greek Orthodox Church in Britain and Ireland, the Lutheran Church in Ireland, the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Moravian Church (Irish District), the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, the Religious Society of Friends, the Rock of Ages Cherubim and Seraphim Church, the Romanian Orthodox Church in Ireland, the Russian Orthodox Church in Ireland, the Salvation Army (Ireland Division).

The Irish Churches Peace Project is a £1.3m programme funded through the EU’s PEACE III Programme which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.

Additional funding is being provided by the Northern Ireland Executive through the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) and by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG) of the Irish Government.

The Special EU Programmes Body is a North/South Implementation Body sponsored by the Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland and the Department of Finance in Ireland. It is responsible for managing two EU structural funds Programmes PEACE III and INTERREG IVA designed to enhance cross-border co-operation, promote reconciliation and create a more peaceful and prosperous society.

The programmes operate within a clearly defined area including Northern Ireland, the Border Region of Ireland and in the case of INTERREG IVA, Western Scotland.

The PEACE III Programme, funded under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), is worth €333 million and is aimed primarily at reinforcing progress towards a peaceful and stable society and promoting reconciliation.

It focuses on helping Northern Ireland and the Border Region of Ireland to reconcile communities and contribute towards a shared society. For more information on the SEUPB please visitwww.seupb.eu

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