Catholic Church calls for compassion for victims of suicide


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More than 350,000 leaflets are being sent out to parishes in England and Wales this weekend to mark the Catholic Church's annual Day for Life (26 July) which this year focuses on suicide.

The purpose of this year's Day for Life is to highlight why life is worth living even when a person has lost hope and is suicidal; it also aims to clarify the Church's teaching on suicide and to help reduce the number of myths associated with mental illness, depression and suicide.

"Suicide is a grave sin," said Bishop Bernard Longley, the Bishop for Day for Life and Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster. "But an individual must be mentally healthy to be fully aware that what they are doing is a sin. When a person commits suicide, they are generally so clouded by confusion and despair as to be no longer in full control of their mental faculties. God does not condemn anyone not fully aware of what they are doing; His mercy is without end."

"Apart from funeral Masses, suicide is something that is not very often dealt with in homilies or in preaching," he added.

"The Church prays for those who have taken their own lives.

"Parishioners and clergy are very often the people who are first aware of others in their community and they can play an important part in creating a supportive and compassionate community.

"We wanted the material produced to have a positive focus on the way in which every individual human is held in God's love.

And to point towards the "professional support available for individuals and families and hopefully to reduce some of the stigma for a long time associated with mental illness, depression and suicide."

Professor Sheila Hollins, the Immediate Past President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said "often in Church settings people think that praying is going to be enough; that people don't need to seek professional help.

"Community leaders including clergy are very important gatekeepers to accessing the appropriate professional help through daring to ask if somebody is experiencing suicidal thoughts.

"A trusted parish priest is just the sort of person who might be able to persuade someone that seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness, but of strength."