New suicide prevention resource for local clergy

Pictured (l-r) are Reverend Mervyn Ewing (Methodist Church in Ireland), Father Brendan McManus (Jesuit community) and Jo Murphy (Manager of Lighthouse Ireland). INNT 38-505CON
Pictured (l-r) are Reverend Mervyn Ewing (Methodist Church in Ireland), Father Brendan McManus (Jesuit community) and Jo Murphy (Manager of Lighthouse Ireland). INNT 38-505CON

A new handbook which gives advice on speaking about the issues of mental health and suicide during a religious service is being sent to clergy throughout Northern Ireland.

The new booklet has been developed by partnership group ‘Flourish!’. The group includes Lighthouse Ireland, clergy from across the Christian churches in Northern Ireland, the Churches Community Work Alliance NI and the Public Health Agency (PHA).

Copies of the new Flourish! Sunday Worship Resources were sent to over 1,400 members of the clergy across all denominations to coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10).

The new booklet includes advice on preparing a service, suggestions on scripture and choices for music that could be used during the service.

Madeline Heaney, Regional Lead for Mental Health Promotion with the PHA, said: “Clergy have a huge role to play in offering pastoral support during some of the most testing times in our lives. It can often be difficult for clergy to know how best to address mental health issues and suicide within their congregation. We hope that this new resource will support and enable clergy to provide advice at such times.”

Jo Murphy, Manager of Lighthouse Ireland, said: “Suicide is such a big concern in our communities. Churches play a pivotal role in supporting people who have been bereaved by suicide. This resource has been developed with the churches to encourage clergy to talk about mental health and encourage people to reach out and seek help.”

Rev Mervyn Ewing from the Methodist Church in Ireland said: “This is a very reassuring resource for clergy who are faced with the aftermath of suicide and offering pastoral support to families affected. Often clergy feel isolated when faced with this issue.

“This resource offers advice in relation to preparing for a funeral and guidance in relation to words that are helpful. It offers additional support by including a list of key regional support telephone numbers. For many clergy, providing pastoral support to families affected by suicide can be very disconcerting and perplexing; this resource helps reassure clergy, allay fears and provides some very useful and practical advice.”

This is the second time that Flourish! has distributed guidance to churches in Northern Ireland. In October 2014 churches received Suicide prevention and emotional wellbeing – Pastoral guidelines and training directory for churches. This resource included guidance on suicide prevention, supporting people bereaved by suicide and promoting emotional wellbeing.

Flourish! also offers a range of training courses as practical support to help churches respond to vulnerable people. Training includes newly-developed faith-based modules and other existing training such as Mood Matters, Mental Health First Aid, self-harm awareness, SafeTALK and ASIST courses across Northern Ireland.

For further information about Flourish! visit

• If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000. This is a confidential service, where trained counsellors will listen and help immediately on the phone and follow up with other support if necessary. The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also access the Lifeline website at