Responding to Suicide: A Pastoral Handbook for Catholic Leaders
Many pastoral leaders feel ill-equipped to respond to the turmoil of those who face the death by suicide of a loved one. Responding to Suicide is the first book written for Catholic leaders that takes a holistic approach to understanding suicide and ministering effectively in its aftermath.
More than a dozen leading mental health practitioners, Catholic theologians, and pastoral care experts share how best to respond to suicide as leaders in parishes, schools, healthcare systems, and other Church settings. The book offers a cross-disciplinary approach that provides basic information about the central role of mental health in suicide and clarifies Church teaching about suicide, funerals and burials for those who have died by suicide, and their afterlife.
The National Center for Health Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that suicide was the tenth most common cause of death among Americans of all ages in 2017 and the second leading cause of death among fifteen to twenty-four year-olds.
Death by suicide is usually sudden, often violent, and frequently comes at the end of a long and difficult struggle with a mental illness. Heaped on top of that is a social stigma that leaves loved ones in shock and often burdened with shame. Responding to Suicide addresses common concerns of the bereaved following a suicide: skepticism that Catholic leaders will understand; fear that the Church teaches that their loved one is in hell; and belief that they will find little if any support in the Church.
More than a dozen contributors from across the spectrum of Catholic life provide rich guidance rooted in firsthand experience of suicide loss. Contributors include Deacon Ed Shoener, Bishop John P. Dolan, Msgr. Charles Pope, Leticia Adams, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Msgr. Stephen Rossetti, and clinical experts in the field of mental health and suicide. They share personal stories of loss, grief, hope, and healing, and clear up misconceptions about Church teaching.
They offer practical takeaways for pastoral leaders:
- dos and don’ts when talking about suicide
- guidance for preaching and planning funerals
- information on the role of mental illnesses in suicide
- resource lists for those who grieve as well as for your own professional development
- suggested protocols for ministering to a school or parish community following a suicide
- ideas about forming parish outreach ministries to the bereaved that address the needs of suicide loss