September 2021 – Minneapolis, USA
During September’s National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, one organization, LivingWorks, is encouraging pastors, clergy, and ministry leaders to be at the forefront of saving lives by being prepared to be a “first responder” to those in their congregation, their programs, and their community.
Suicide rates in the U.S. continue to rise, and with the pandemic bringing isolation and detachment from others, those who battle depression have been left to themselves with little intervention. The church is not exempt from this phenomenon. Sadly, mental health issues and suicide rates have climbed among the pastorate as well.
LivingWorks gives ministry leaders foundational skills to make their congregations and communities safer from suicide, creating a supportive environment where people feel comfortable both seeking and offering help. In turn, this can provide a basis for training other people—such as ministry teams or congregation members—to help using LivingWorks’ community-based model where everyone is part of the solution.
Glen Bloomstrom, Director of Faith Community Engagement for LivingWorks, says that the church plays a critical role in suicide prevention. “There is a belief among many clergy and ministry leaders that mental health, and especially suicide prevention, are not in their lane,” says Bloomstrom. “The topic is complex, time-consuming, and terrifying. Clergy see suicide prevention as something for others to do instead of them. But the reality is that faith leaders are the first stopgap in helping those with suicide ideation.”
According to LivingWorks, there is a great need for pastors and ministry leaders to be educated and trained in suicide prevention. Bloomstrom says, “Through my experience of being a 30-year career Army chaplain, I see suicide prevention as analogous to a military operation. In operational planning, you have a reserve force, an element that can reinforce the efforts of a potentially besieged or overrun unit. From this perspective, I see the church and faith community as a key reinforcement to the increasing number of people struggling with suicidal thoughts in our society. True, faith leaders, ministry volunteers, and people of faith are not licensed therapists. However, anyone can be trained to listen and ask some basic questions to save the life of someone who is struggling. You don’t need a thoracic surgeon at the onset of a heart attack, but you do need someone trained in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) to save a life. The same is true with suicide.”
For the past twenty years suicide death rates have continued to rise by nearly a third. Youth, veterans, and middle-aged men are increasingly attempting suicide and dying by their own hands. More people need to be involved in the prevention of suicide, and faith communities could be a key reinforcing community element.
LivingWorks has developed an online training program for ministry leaders to provide foundational skills to make their congregations and communities safer from suicide, creating a supportive environment where people feel comfortable both seeking and offering help. The program, LivingWorks Faith can provide a basis for training other people—such as ministry teams or congregation members—to help using LivingWorks’ community-based model and training programs where everyone is part of the solution.
Bloomstrom states, “Our training, which blends Scriptural wisdom and proven best practices, is designed for all Christian ministry leaders who want to learn to effectively prevent, intervene, and minister around the issue of suicide in their congregations and in their communities. I believe the faith community can make a vital difference in their congregations and in their communities in curbing the rising suicide rate in our nation. And it’s our goal to work together with pastors and clergy to make that indeed happen.”
If you are having suicidal thoughts, or you know someone who is, help is available
About LivingWorks Faith
LivingWorks Faith is a fully online program that is integrated with video, resource links and full unlimited access to the program after completion. The program is designed to support Christian clergy and lay persons in addressing, supporting, and responding to those struggling with suicide thoughts and experiences. This program is a valuable resource for those ministering in parish, congregational, hospital, military, educational, correctional settings and within the wider community. LivingWorks Faith was developed using evidence-based clergy competencies published by the National Action Alliance’s publication of Suicide Prevention Competencies for Faith Leaders: Supporting Life Before, During and After a Suicidal Crisis.
About Glen Bloomstrom
Glen Bloomstrom is currently the Director, Faith Community Engagement at LivingWorks Education, an international suicide intervention training company and an adjunct professor for pastoral counseling at Bethlehem Seminary, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is also a member of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention Faith Communities Task Force. Glen served on active duty as a US Army chaplain for 30 years, retiring at the rank of Colonel. Recently he was project lead for an on-line suicide prevention-training program, for ministry leaders entitled LivingWorks Faith.