You are a practical theologian. That is the premise that Preventing Suicide is built on. As a pastor, chaplain, or counselor its is important for you the reflect upon your own theology of suicide. Why? Well because what you belief affects what you do, because there isn’t one Christian position on suicide, and finally because most people in the church have no clue what to do when it comes to dealing with people who are suicidal. Karen Mason, in Preventing Suicide, attempts to address these three issues.
People who do vocational ministry have the privilege of being able to discuss theological issues regarding life, death, suffering, and community – all issues that are very important to those who are at risk of self-harm or suicide. Ministers also deal with people who are undergoing great amounts of suffering. Whether it’s a broken relationship, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, or depression pastors often deal with people who are going through things that put them at great risk for suicide. According to Mason,
“Pastoral caregivers have unique competencies necessary in suicide prevention. They offer their primary discipline of practical theology as well as faith beliefs and behaviors that protect against suicide. Pastors, chaplains, and pastoral counselors need to be prepared to be involved in suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention because suicide already exists in the faith community.
This book covers a wide range of topics including:
1) People who are at risk for suicide
2) Myths about suicide
3) Christian views regarding suicide
4) Theories of Suicide
5) How to help someone in a suicide crisis
6) How to help those who have survived suicide attempts
7) How to help those who help people who are suicidal
8) How to help the friends and family of those who have committed suicide
9) How to help your church deal with a suicide
I found this book to be extremely helpful. Not once in seminary did we cover the topic of suicide – thus everything I know about it I have picked up along the way. Most helpful for me were the chapters one who is at risk for suicide and also the chapter on how to hep someone who is suicidal. The chapter contained some very practical steps that everybody should know regarding suicide prevention. In fact, it is so helpful and practical (and important) that I will make it required reading for all of the small group leaders in my ministry. I know reading one chapter and discussing it isn’t enough training for dealing with suicide, however I believe it can be a really good starting point to begin the conversation.
This book should be required reading for anybody in ministry. I highly recommend that you get a copy and put it into the hands of anybody who does ministry, whether it’s a pastor, counselor, or even small group leader.
(Note: I received this book free of charge from IVP in exchange for an impartial review.)