250281 Clergy and suicide prevention: A qualitative exploration of experiences and needs

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Joseph O'Neil, MD, MPH , Riley Hospital for Children, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN
Richard Goldsworthy, MSEd, PhD , Academic Edge, Inc., Bloomington, IN
Daniel Geyer, MPH , Public Health, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN
Jodi Hackworth, MPH , Division of Injury Prevention, Indiana State Department of Health, Indianapolis, IN
Angela Plank , Indiana Violence Prevention Partnership, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN
Lori Lovett, MS , Indiana Violence Prevention Partnership, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN
Marilyn Bull, MD , Developmental Pediatrics, Riley Hospital for Children, Indianapolis, IN
Introduction: Faith leaders may be called upon to minister to congregation members contemplating suicide. However, clergy may have limited training, resources, or experience counseling potential suicide victims. We interviewed clergy regarding their suicide prevention activities and needs. Methods Faith leaders representing multiple faith traditions, identified from national church contact lists, were invited via phone to participate in structured interviews (509 contacts, 31 participants). Suicide prevention-related training, experience, faith-specific conceptualization, and engagement in relevant prevention behaviors were assessed and subjected to multi-stage mixed methods analysis. Results: The median age was 53 years (Range 25-72y); 83.9% male, 71.0% white and 16.1% African American; 74.2% Christian, 9.7% Jewish, 6.5% Islamic, 3.2% Hindu, and 6.5% unaffiliated. The majority (83.9%) were college graduates or greater, with an average tenure of 23.5 years. 51.6% had counseled members about suicidal ideation, and 35.5% had a congregation member commit suicide. While 58.1% indicated some suicide-related training, only 66.7% of these believed their training had sufficiently prepared them for handling suicide in their faith organization. One-in-five stated inadequate knowledge of available health care providers was a direct barrier to referring at-risk faith members. Moreover, 55% stated that increased understanding of how to access and refer to health care providers would assist them to support faith members. Conclusion: These results promote understanding of faith leaders' experience with and beliefs regarding suicide prevention and suggest specific resources, tools, and, in particular, cross-provider relationship building that may improve suicide-related outcomes among those at heightened risk.

Learning Areas:
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Other professions or practice related to public health
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs

Learning Objectives:
Describe potential roles of clergy in suicide prevention and the lack of research data in the field Describe the results of a qualitative investigation of clergy training, experience, barriers, and needs regarding counseling congregation members contemplating suicide Draw implications for clergy and public health professionals for current and future work by and with clergy

Keywords: Faith Community, Suicide

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Presentations, publications and research with a firearm and violence database.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.