Churches from across Northern Ireland came together today (Monday 3 March) at Stormont to officially launch a new partnership initiative which aims to prevent suicide.
‘Flourish!’ is a regional inter-church suicide prevention initiative which involves Lighthouse Ireland, the Churches’ Community Work Alliance (Northern Ireland), and the four main churches in Northern Ireland. Flourish! has been developed in partnership with the Public Health Agency (PHA).
It aims to support churches to develop a focussed and shared approach to addressing the needs of people affected by suicide and to develop and provide appropriate training and good practice guidelines for clergy, church leaders and pastoral teams.
Flourish! will work to raise awareness of suicide prevention and support services through churches. Churches will work together and with other agencies to increase access to support services for families recently bereaved by suicide. They will also develop and offer appropriate opportunities for reflection and remembrance for people bereaved by suicide.
Guidelines have been developed to help churches respond to those affected by suicide, and a recommended training pathway and website have been developed for clergy.
Health Minister Edwin Poots said: “Frontline suicide prevention services remain vital, but to reduce suicide in the longer term it will be necessary to improve the emotional resilience of high risk people and groups before they become actively suicidal.
“This will require action on a wide range of fronts across government and across sectors including churches and faith groups. Churches are at the forefront in caring for families and communities who are affected by suicide and are committed to offering compassionate pastoral care to people who are bereaved or who are in despair.
“Guidelines have been developed by the Flourish! Working Group as a practical support to help clergy, church staff and volunteers respond confidently, sensitively and appropriately to people affected by suicide. The guidelines provide practical advice to clergy on their role in promoting positive mental health and they include a section on how clergy can look after their own mental wellbeing while providing support for others. I welcome the development of the Flourish! initiative.”
Mary Black, Assistant Director of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement at the PHA said: “Every day clergy, church youth workers, church lay leaders, lay pastoral workers and other church staff provide pastoral support to people facing life’s biggest challenges such as illness, death, job loss and family breakdown. This unique role offers an opportunity to help people at risk of suicide who may not initially seek support from mental health professionals or even from family members.”
Jo Murphy, Manager of Lighthouse Ireland, added: “Lighthouse is delighted to have initiated the Flourish! Project, which has facilitated the coming together of the four main churches.
“Suicide is an issue that touches all our communities regardless of religious background, culture, political affiliations or social economic factors.”
Reverend Mervyn Ewing from the Methodist Church in Ireland said: “The Flourish! initiative is a really exciting and unique development demonstrating a wonderfully joined-up approach to offering both pastoral care and support to families directly and indirectly affected by suicide and comprehensive training to those who provide the pastoral care and support.”
For further information on Flourish! please 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: