Preventing suicide one life at a time

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n General William Booth began Army’s suicide prevention work 100 years ago.


Suicide is a major issue. The World Health Organization reports that, in the past 45 years, suicide rates in some countries have increased by 50 percent and that, worldwide, suicide ranks among the three leading causes of death for ages 15 to 44. Over a five-year period, more than 50 million people were bereaved by suicide, with a current average of more than 2,700 suicides daily.

The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) will acknowledge The Salvation Army for its 100th year of suicide prevention work around the world, begun by General William Booth in 1907.

This year’s milestone provides The Salvation Army with the impetus to move forward to develop and implement suicide prevention and ‘postvention’ (suicide bereavement) programs to assist, comfort, support and counsel people at risk of suicide and their friends and relatives.

Recently, The Salvation Army in Australia has been a leader in the prevention of suicide through Salvation Army Services, the Salvo Care Line and the Oasis Youth Centre.

Current plans include initiatives that will allow Salvationists to become involved in a work with the potential to be an opportunity for ministry and evangelism. The hope is that other Salvation Army territories will embrace the model and the vision of this ministry of compassion.

A life saved

Once a homeless youth himself, John was a desperate man contemplating suicide. Needing a purpose in life, he agreed to teach guitar lessons at the Army’s Oasis Centre for homeless youth, where he was welcomed by the young people. This was more than a job for John; it became a reason to live.

In a poem he wrote about the change in his life, John revealed, “I wanted to die to end this pain/But your compassion brought me back again.”

Suicide prevention is everybody’s business. The Salvation Army worldwide is in a unique position to provide comfort and support to those considering taking their own lives and those bereaved by suicide. The initiatives in Australia and other plans linked to the IASP congress are designed to raise awareness of the issues and bring help and support to many at risk—in so doing providing an opportunity for ministry and evangelism.

From a January All the World article by Envoy Alan Staines, chair of The Salvation Army suicide prevention committee in the Australia Eastern Territory.

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