When Clergy Preach and Teach on Suicide: Do Listeners Hear?

Clergy have a key role in suicide prevention by ministering to people struggling with suicidal thoughts and behaviors and performing suicide funerals and memorial services. However, it is not clear if clergy preach or teach on suicide-related topics and if congregants hear them preach on these topics. It is also unclear if clergy and congregants in three religious traditions differ. Convenience samples of U.S. Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant participants (471 clergy and 703 congregants) completed online surveys on 15 preaching and teaching topics. Five topics were
clearly suicide-related (moral objections to suicide, asking about suicidal thinking directly, how to care for loved ones after a suicide death, why people of faith have mental illness, and how
they heal) and the rest were topics that covered protective factors for suicide but were less clearly related to suicide (why people suffer, how to manage suffering, why/how life can have meaning, reasons for living life, how to build a life worth living, why/how religious people have hope, the importance of belonging, how to manage conflict, self-esteem and self-care). Clergy reported preaching and teaching and congregants reported hearing significantly more topics that are perceived as unrelated to suicide as compared to suicide-related topics. Clergy reported preaching and teaching on all topics (both suicide-related and those perceived as non-suicide-related) significantly more than congregants reported hearing the same list of topics. Catholic and Protestant clergy and congregants reported that their clergy preached and taught more on all topics compared to Jewish clergy who may preach more on striving to live a moral and ethical life. While Protestant clergy reported they preach and teach on all topics, their congregants do not report hearing the suicide-related topics