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Clergy receive handbook on discussing suicide

Mervyn Ewing from the Methodist Church in Ireland
Seanín Graham

CLERGY across Northern Ireland are to receive a new handbook which provides advice on speaking about suicide during funeral services.

More than 1,400 clergy members across all denominations will get copies that give suggestions on preparing a service, appropriate scripture and music choices.

Priests and ministers are often the first people to enter the family circle following such bereavements.

But recent research has found that clergy are often ill-equipped for the difficulties of counselling families affected by suicide, and have poor understanding of mental ill health and the complex issues surrounding it.

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

Previous guidance was issued to clergy last year on suicide prevention but this is the first specific advice on discussing suicide in religious services.

Reverend Mervyn Ewing from the Methodist Church in Ireland said clergy often feel "isolated" when faced with the issue of suicide.

"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," he said.

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