Bringing Hope, Preventing Suicide

As beloved children of God seeking to love and serve one another, we are called to bring hope to all people and strive for physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing for all. This means we cannot ignore the pain of people who might find themselves isolated, experiencing trauma, or suffering from mental illness. People in these circumstances may be at risk for self-directed harm with the intent to die.

Self-directed harm with the intent to die is called suicide attempt.

Death caused by self-directed harm with the intent to die is known as death by suicide.

People at risk for suicide attempt; attempt survivors; and the families, friends, and communities of the victims of death by suicide need the love, support, and care of close relationships and community. In bringing love, support, and care, we proclaim a message of hope and we live out our baptismal covenant to:

Proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.

Seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.

In the Episcopal Church in Colorado, many of our congregations are seeking education and resources around suicide in a desire to support the many people affected by this reality and potentially to save lives. This work asks us to challenge our assumptions, look deeply within ourselves, and commit to God’s vision for us. Perhaps your congregation has already begun this work by holding educational forums about suicide prevention. Maybe your church offers a support group for people affected by mental illness. Or perhaps you’ve watched the rate of suicide rise and you want to help but don’t know how. Regardless of where you find yourself, it is important to understand that we all own the work of bringing hope and preventing suicide. We suggest you begin where you are.

Who can help us in this work?

Mentors, Coaches, Advisors

Elizabeth Cervasio, Office of the Bishop
The Rev. Rebecca Crummey, Director, Colorado Episcopal Service Corps; Vicar, St. Peter and St. Mary, Denver
Kimberley Hubbs, St. Matthew’s, Parker

Faith Formation Team (Resources)

Greg Foraker, Missioner for Faith Formation
Tracy Methe, Faith Formation Coordinator
Elizabeth Cervasio, Director of Children and Youth Ministry

Communications Support

Mike Orr, Director of Communications

Advocacy

Anthony Suggs, Missioner for Advocacy and Social Justice

Resources to Help Equip and Empower You to Engage in the Work of Bringing Hope and Preventing Suicide

Click on the following areas to access information and resources.

Are we called to do this work?

What does the Episcopal Church say?

At the 73rd General Convention in 2000, the following resolution was adopted:
  1. We affirm our belief that, as St. Paul teaches (Romans 8:39), “Nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  2. We pledge ourselves to collaborate with other religious bodies and secular agencies in educating ourselves to recognize and minister more appropriately to those among us who are especially at risk of suicide as well as those who are impacted by the suicide of others; and
  3. We urge that all levels of the Episcopal Church, parochial, diocesan, and national, accord high priority to the prevention of suicide in prayers and programming.

At the 79th General Convention in 2018, $75,000 was designated for the work of “building a better and more hopeful and helpful response to mental health needs and suicide prevention from a faith-based perspective.” In September 2019, the task force for this work gathered in Denver to begin outlining a plan.

What does scripture say?

Scripture tells us that we are all beloved children of God, and that God knows us intimately.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1)

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; (Psalm 139:13-14)

Created in the image of a loving God, we also are called to love each other:

And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)

Being called to love one another means we are called to be present to the people around us; we are called to seek compassionate understanding of others’ experiences; we are called to equip ourselves to help when we are needed; and we are called to bring hope to each person.

What help is needed?

Factors that increase the risk of suicide include isolation, mental illness, and substance abuse.

Factors that decrease risk include family support, community support (connectedness), and ready access to health care.

Factors that increase the risk of suicide include easy access to lethal means. Firearms accounted for 23,854 suicides (50.6%) in 2017 (Suicide Facts and Statistics). There is a strong association between the presence of a firearm in the home and an increased risk of suicide for the gun owner and the gun owner’s spouse and children (America’s Health Rankings).

Factors that decrease risk include removing lethal means of suicide and avoiding unsafe media portrayals of suicide.

Factors that increase the risk for suicide include trauma, such as child abuse, bullying, and sexual violence.

Factors that decrease risk include sexual and physical abuse prevention training and anti-bullying programs.

How does suicide affect people and communities?

In 2017 suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. For youth and young adults, ages 15-34, it ranked number two.

Colorado and other mountain states continue to have higher rates of suicide than other parts of the country, with Colorado ranking number 10 in 2017. In addition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the youth suicide rate is nearly twice the national average (6th highest in U.S.). A recent study conducted in the four Colorado counties with the highest rates of teen suicide–titled Community Conversations to Inform Youth Suicide–declared death by suicide to be a a public health crisis. Learn more about suicide statistics in the U.S. >

Our communities: Even people and communities unacquainted with a suicide victim feel grief, sadness, and possibly anxiety when death by suicide occurs. People may feel unequipped to talk about what happened, or they may feel that talking about it might lead to more suicide. This stigma can lead to silence, leaving “people feeling isolated, as if they are facing this tragedy alone. When someone dies by suicide, the aftermath opens up an immediate opportunity to talk about suicide as a public health issue that affects all of us.” (The Ripple Effect of Suicide)

Suicide survivors: The families, friends, and support communities of someone who has died by suicide may experience extreme guilt, feel they are not allowed to fully grieve, and have many unanswered questions: Why did the person give up hope? What could I have done differently to prevent this tragedy? Why didn’t I see the signs?  How could the person do this if he/she/they loved me? (NAMI Personal Stories) The article The Ripple Effect of Suicide discusses the wide-reaching effects of suicide completion.

Suicide attempt survivors: Individuals who have attempted suicide may experience confusion along with continued emotions from before the attempt. They are in need of immediate care as well as longer-term care and support. Attempt survivors are at heightened risk for further attempts.

Definitions

Death by Suicide: Death where there is evidence that a self-inflicted act led to the person’s death. Note: This phrase is preferred over “commit suicide,” which may imply negative moral judgement or “suicide completion,” which implies achievement. Read more >

Mental health: Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. (What Is Mental Health?)

Safety plan: A safety plan is a set of instructions that can be used if thoughts of self harm are experienced. Safety plans are typically created by the person at risk and the person’s treatment provider and/or caregiver. See sample safety plan from National Suicide Prevention Lifeline >

Suicide attempt: A non-fatal self-directed potentially injurious behavior with any intent to die as a result of the behavior. A suicide attempt may or may not result in injury.

Suicide attempt survivor: a person who as attempted suicide and survived.

Suicidal ideation: Suicidal thoughts, or suicidal ideation, means thinking about or planning suicide.Thoughts can range from a detailed plan to a fleeting consideration. It does not include the final act of suicide. Suicidal thoughts are common, and many people experience them when they are undergoing stress or experiencing depression. In most cases, these are temporary and can be treated, but in some cases, they place the individual at risk for attempting or carrying out death by suicide (Medical News Today).

Suicidal intent: To have suicide or deliberate self-killing as one’s purpose. Intent refers to the aim, purpose, or goal of the behavior rather than the behavior itself. The term connotes a conscious desire or wish to leave or escape from life, and also connotes a resolve to act.

Suicide survivor: A family or friend of someone who has completed suicide.

Suicide and the Current Youth Landscape

Articles and Video Resources

Books

  • Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting teens, by Laurence Steinberg, PhD: Based on the current neuroscience of the human developing brain. How old practices may need to give way to new ones for us to raise healthy humans.
  • The Grown-Up’s Guide to Teenage Humans by Josh Ship: Book about the behaviors of teens and the importance of building trust to raise them.
  • Grit, by Angela Duckworth: Book about the importance of resilience and determination.
  • Sticky Faith, by Dr Kara E. Powell and Dr. Chap Clark: Book for faith-based communities working with youth about factors in making sure their faith sticks with them into young adulthood.

Training

  • Recommendations for suicide-prevention training can be found under the What can Individuals Do? toggle box.

Trauma Informed

Websites

Faith Based Programs or Guides

  • The Riches of Grace/Redefine provides peer-led group curriculums for adults and teens that can be used in church, community, or school settings.
  • Living Compass is a program for wholeness and wellness that can be used in both Christian and secular communities to promote all around health.

How can individuals make a difference?

Know how to intervene in case of crisis

If you or someone you know is in need of support, contact Colorado Crisis Services:

Call 1-844-493-TALK (8255)

or

Text “TALK” to 38255

or

Go to www.coloradocrisisservices.org to access a live chat available in 17 languages

Educate yourself about mental illness and crisis prevention

Complete a course on mental health and crisis intervention like Mental Health First Aid Colorado or QPR Online Gatekeeper Training.

LivingWorks offers two trainings:

  • safeTALK is a three-four hour alertness training available for anyone over the age of 15. The maximum number of participants is limited to 25 with a minimum of 10 and must be presented by a LivingWorks safeTALK trainer who has completed the train the trainer program.
  • ASIST is a two-day intensive workshop teaching anyone over the age 0f 16 how to do a successful intervention. It must be presented by a LivingWorks safeTALK trainer who has completed the train the trainer program. The maximum number of participants in ASIST workshop is 30; the minimum is 15.   
Trauma Informed Training through the Centers for Adolescences Studies brings together the spectrum of mental health, suicide, and the importance of proper training and self care for adults who work with youth.

Know the risk factors for suicide

  • Individual level: history of depression and other mental illnesses, hopelessness, substance abuse, certain health conditions, previous suicide attempt, violence victimization and perpetration, and genetic and biological determinants
  • Relationship level: high conflict or violent relationships, sense of isolation and lack of social support, family/ loved one’s history of suicide, financial and work stress
  • Community level: inadequate community connectedness, barriers to health care (e.g., lack of access to providers and medications)
  • Societal level: availability of lethal means of suicide, unsafe media portrayals of suicide, stigma associated with help-seeking and mental illness.

Know the warning signs

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Extreme mood swings

Source: Suicide Prevention Lifeline

How can congregations support the work suicide prevention?

Congregations are positioned to support the work of bringing hope and preventing suicide in several ways:

  • Building a caring, loving community with fellow parishioners
  • Becoming educated about suicide
  • Offering support or resources for suicide attempt survivors and suicide survivors
  • Volunteering or financially supporting organizations involved in the work of suicide prevention

Get involved

Commit to bringing hope to those who are at risk for suicide: be present, provide loving community, create awareness, know how to help. Find advocates in your congregation to lead this work.

Educate

  • Understand the common language around suicide and suicide prevention. Begin with the definitions above.
  • Learn about the experiences of suicide attempt survivors. During Suicide Prevention Month 2018, Today.com compiled videos and written testimonies of suicide attempt survivors. Read more >
  • Learn more about mental health and how it impacts individuals. The National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI) program In Our Own Voices provides free presentations to interested groups. Presentations help erase the stigma of mental illness by sharing an open, honest perspective on an often highly misunderstood topic.
  • Understand how suicide impacts families and communities.
  • Know the risk factors and warning signs of suicide, as well as how to get support for an individual who is at risk. Learn the risk factors and warning signs >
  • Know what to do in the event of a crisis. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s website #BeThe1To.com provides 5 Steps for suicide prevention.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about suicide. Believing that talk about suicide might lead someone to attempt suicide is a myth. Indian Health Services provides guidelines for talking to someone about suicide. Read more >
  • Learn how the wider community can support the work of suicide prevention. Read more >

Create Awareness

Provide forums for talking about suicide. Use e-newsletters, bulletin boards, and other media to share information about suicide and how to help in the work of suicide prevention.

Participate in National Suicide Prevention Week, held in September each year. National Suicide Prevention Day is September 10. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention provides resources for creating awareness and gaining competency in suicide prevention during National Suicide Prevention Week and beyond. Check out resources for 2019 >

Invite parishioners to take NAMI’s Stigma-Free Pledge, dedicated to eliminating the stigma that harms the 1 in 5 Americans affected by mental health conditions. Stigma can shame people into silence and prevent them from seeking help.

Provide Support

Consider hosting a mental health support group at your church. NAMI can help you set up a group that is right for you and your surrounding community. Learn more >

Consider using part of your outreach funds to support an organization dedicated to mental illness or suicide prevention. Or participate in a fundraiser such as NAMI’s annual Walk for Mental Health.

Advocate

NAMI can help you know ways to advocate for policy changes in your community and at the state and national level. Learn more >

Resources for Support

The Suicide Prevention Resource Center has a comprehensive list of national organizations and federal agencies supporting the work of suicide prevention. View list >

The Trevor Project (LGBTQIA Youth)

Founded in 1998 by the creators of the Academy Award®-winning short film TREVOR, The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25. Trained counselors provide 24/7 support at 1-866-488-7386. Learn more >

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The organization is committed to “improving crisis services and advancing suicide prevention by empowering individuals, advancing professional best practices, and building awareness.”

American Association for Suicidology’s mission is to promote the understanding and prevention of suicide and support those who have been affected by it. The organization holds an annual conference and offers free resources. A youth advisory board for youth suicide prevention contributes to the work of the organization. Learn more >

Robbie’s Hope (Golden, CO) was created by Robbie’s parents, his friends, and students from his school following his death by suicide. The website says, “We are a movement. An uprising of teens to help other teens. We’ve made it our mission to stop the suicide epidemic that’s taking the lives of our friends.” Robbie’s Hope provides resources for teens, adults, and support group leaders, and a handbook for people wishing to start their own group.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-8255

Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners provides its services through phone and electronic messaging. This includes services like in-the-moment stabilization, early intervention, peer (lived-experience) support, follow-up care for Crisis Lines and Emergency Department partners, and referral into ongoing treatment. Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners is Colorado’s local National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provider, the provider of the statewide Colorado Crisis and Support Line.

Imagine Zero strives to build a wider and stronger safety net of suicide prevention resources in Northern Colorado. If you or someone you know are having a mental health or substance use crisis:
Call Colorado Crisis Support/Services 1-844-493-8255 or Text TALK to 38255. Learn more >

The Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado (SPCC) was formed in 1999, when concerned citizens set out to create a statewide agency with the purpose of preventing suicide and creating a resource network for those who were working to prevent suicide around the state.

Pastoral Resources

Faith.Hope.Life. is an offshoot of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. Developed by the ecumenical Faith Communities Task Force, Faith.Hope.Life. “is an opportunity for every faith community in the United States, regardless of creed, to support suicide prevention.” The website includes resources for taking action to prevent suicide.

Suicide Prevention Competencies for Faith Leaders: Supporting Life Before, During, and after a Suicidal Crisis provides a set of competencies for counseling people at risk for suicide attempt; suicide attempt survivors; and affected families, friends, and communities.

A Journey toward Health and Hope is a guide for suicide attempt survivors. It includes initial steps for staying safe, ways to process what happened, and creating a lifestyle that helps the individual move toward health and hope.

iCare Packages contain resources to help support an individual or family with the loss of a loved one to suicide. iCare Packages were started by parents who lost children to suicide to let others know they are not alone in their loss and grief. Packages contain useful resource material and supportive reading selections that align with safe messaging recommendations. They are generalized to be easily distributed throughout Colorado but can be customized by any local organization by simply including their own literature. Each iCare package includes the following resources: two books, a journal, a pen, information on ways to connect with other loss survivors and organizations, a handmade gift, and a canvas tote bag.

Judi’s House is the only free-standing organization in the Metro Denver area devoted solely to providing research-based care to grieving children and their families.

The American Association for Suicidology has compiled an extensive resource page for Suicide Attempt Survivors and their Supporters, including videos, a recovery handbook, a complete list of suicide survivor support groups, and support materials for families and friends.