Workshop helps faith-based community address suicide

Workshop helps faith-based community address suicide
April 28
04:15 2016

Photo by Donna Rogers

Fe Anam Avis facilitates the workshop “Soul Shop: Ministering to Suicidal Desperation” on April 21.



As the preacher in the pulpit urges the congregation to worship God, he blurts out “I feel a spirit of suicide in here.” Then at prayer time, unknown people contemplating suicide are prayed for.

This scene is repeated over several Sundays. Suicide is not a topic talked about much in places of worship nor had it been specified as an area for prayer needs as much as it is now.

“Often, it’s a subject that is taboo,” said Barbara Saulpaugh, regional director with CareNet Counseling, an affiliate of Wake Forest Baptist Health. She said that could be because of fear, shame or embarrassment.

“I think people don’t often ask the question ‘Are you thinking of suicide?’ because the person might say ‘Yes’” and the people wouldn’t know what to do next.

There is not much training in churches on the topic But the Northwest Area Health Education Center (NWA-HEC) teamed up with CareNet Counseling to present four workshops called “Soul Shop: Ministering to Suicidal Desperation” in the Triad, with the last one conducted in Winston-Salem on Thursday April 21 at the NWAHEC office on Deacon Boulevard.

Northwest Area Health Education Center is an educational outreach and training program designed to enhance the health of the public in its 17-county region.

CareNet says there is a rising tide of suicide in the area. Soul Shop is a suicide prevention training program and includes a daylong training session specifically designed to train church leaders, clergy, program staff, lay ministers, office staff and faith-based therapists to detect the signs of someone contemplating suicide and possibly save his or her life. The pro-gram also trains church leaders how to minister to surviving family members after a suicide and offers advanced training on the subject.

The issues are, how do you identify people who are thinking about suicide and how do church leaders and lay people help someone who is thinking about it?

“You have to ask the question,” said Fe Anam Avis, the facilitator for the workshop. He is with the Pittsburgh Pastoral Institute, which administers Soul Shop training.  He uses the Bible throughout the training to show that “God CALLS us to minister to those impacted by suicidal desperation.” He used the acronym CALL: Commit, Ask, Listen and Lead to safety and leave in good hands.

If you find out that someone is suicidal, what would you do? Avis led those who attended the workshop through steps in helping suicidal people through various conversation

points and allowed the participants to create public prayers that included the word suicide.  He warned that often it takes a long time for people to overcome suicidal desperation.

One of the phrases used in the training is Second Day people. These are people who have overcome suicidal desperation. Saulpaugh is one. She said it took her 18 months to overcome her suicidal desperation. She said a therapist similar to ones at CareNet Counseling saved her life.

Saulpaugh said the response to the four Soul Shop workshops “has been phenomenal.”

Shawn Roberson, who attended the workshop, is another Second Day person. She is with CenterPoint Human Services, a nonprofit that oversees all the behavioral providers and Medicaid. The nonprofit has a division that offers an emergency response to people who plan to kill themselves.

Roberson said working with suicidal people when she was like that “is no problem.” It took her three years to overcome her suicidal desperation. She said she did it with a supportive church family, the teaching at the church and a lot of prayer, affirmations, declarations and “a lot of psychological thoughts taught about the mind.”

She said she stood on the Bible verse Psalm 118:17: “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.”

Avis presented a section of the workshop devoted to working with families of people who have commit-ted suicide. He said family members who are left behind after people commit suicide are more likely to commit suicide than those who have not experienced suicide in the family.

The Rev. Kathy Johnson, pastor of Greater Shekinah Glory Church in Hickory, said her church brought people to the workshop because “we realize that this is an epidemic.” She wants to equip herself and church.

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Wali Pitt

Wali Pitt

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