I attended the ‘Suicide Prevention and Pastoral Care’ seminar organised recently by the Irish Churches Peace Project in Londonderry. For the panel discussion, I asked how the Churches intended to prevent suicide among people who don’t feel accepted by Churches, like gay people.
My question wasn’t answered, so during coffee break I asked the keynote speaker, Professor Thomas Joiner. He told me that research shows a spike in deaths by suicide among young men in late teens to late twenties, who either ‘come out’ as gay and are rejected or decide that they can’t ‘come out’.
Earlier this year, the Irish College of Surgeons published research led by Professor Mary Cannon, which revealed that gay people are seven times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual people. There is clearly a very serious, life-threatening issue about the mental wellbeing of gay people which needs to be acknowledged and demands a life-giving response from the Churches.
I also attended the ‘Living with Difference’ event in Armagh. The more I learn about the issue of human sexuality, the more I realise, with humility and repentance, that the real issue is not ‘Living with Difference’, but ‘with Injustice’, and – worse than that – ‘with Indifference’, which leads some gay people to decide that their only hope is death through suicide.
Andrew Rawding (The Revd)
Holy Trinity Rectory
82 Dungannon Road