Prevention Training Addresses Teen Suicide
The population and small-town charm of Fairfield, Tx suffered greatly last year when three teens committed suicide in a matter of months, including one during Christmas break. Before leading the congregation of First United Methodist Church, Fairfield in prayer following the third community suicide, Pastor Paul Kethley told his congregation, “In addition to praying over this heart-wrenching trend, we are going to take swift intentional steps to address this situation."
Pastor Kethley adds, “United Methodist are able to call people, churches and organizations together to meet the needs of God's children so, on January 10, 2013, over 50 people representing 12 churches accepted our invitation to meet at FUMC Fairfield. At that meeting, a grassroots effort dubbed the Freestone County Suicide Prevention Group was formed and a county-wide training was set up.”
Doris Nealy, member of the neighboring St. James United Methodist Church, Teague says, "Our youth need the church to step up. Youth need to know we are interested in them and want the best for them."
The group hosted the “ASK About Suicide: To Save a Life” suicide prevention training in late February and 70 youth and adults representing 12 Freestone County churches, law enforcement and area schools attended. Eight members of the Freestone County clergy were present, however, most attending were adults wanting to be better informed and better equipped to respond to family, friends and co-workers in crisis.
According to Rev. Kethley, “ASK About Suicide: To Save a Life” is a suicide prevention gatekeeper training program to help people learn how to: ASK about suicide SEEK more information and KNOW where and how to refer individuals in crisis to help. The training was led by Cynthia Cunningham, Executive Director of the Waco branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI Waco) and Dana LaFayette, Director of Crisis Services for our regional Mental Health Mental Retardation Center (MHMR Waco) and supported by many other local mental health professionals.”
Methodist Churches Get to the Heart of the Matter
Alan Van Hooser, pastor of First United Methodist Church-Teague says, "This tragedy response is really about church-building and disciple-making. We are seeing people make real connections across racial and geographic boundaries as we love our neighbor enough to get involved in their deepest needs.”
· currently the third leading cause of death for people 15-24 years old in the U.S.
· the second leading cause of death for this age group in Texas
· taking the lives of over 4,000 individuals aged 10-24
· more commonly attempted by female youths but 4 times more successful by males
The 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 15.8% of U.S high school students had seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous year and 12.8% had made a suicide plan.
It’s a Good Idea to ASK
“Asking someone if they are thinking about suicide is not going to give them the idea - - it may be the very question that stops them,” said Dana LaFayette, “Asking is the first step in saving a life and is an important way to show that you are hearing them and that you will listen.”
During the training, participants learned that people who contemplate and commit suicide have no hope. They believe the lie that their life isn’t important or that they are unlovable. They often show signs of depression saying things like, “I can’t see any way out” or “I just want out of the pain.” “Pastors joined forces to create momentum toward a solution,” says Pastor Kethley, “because we know that the church plays a critical role in preventing hopelessness and suicide. The followers of Jesus are God’s response to a hopeless broken world. We certainly want to offer hope to the hopeless.”
The newly formed Freestone County Suicide Prevention group has committed to:
· Work to raise community awareness about both suicide and the mental health resources available to our community, striving to create an environment where individuals can seek help without judgment.
· Train pastors, youth workers and church members so that they know how to respond and where to find help for individuals in crisis. A second training is being planned and the public will be invited to take part.
· Pray and challenge others to do the same for those taunted by or affected by suicide. Prayer vigils and other prayer events will also be planned.
For information on how to start a community group to address this growing issue in other communities, contact email@example.com. Great resources are available through www.texassuicideprevention.org