Joanne L Harpel, Mphil, CT, JD
suicide bereavement & Postvention specialist
Clergy & Faith communities
After a suicide in a faith community, clergy are called upon to be healers, educators, and role models, and often find themselves having to address extremely complex questions, such as:
Are we supposed to handle the funeral and burial differently from other deaths?
What is my faith tradition’s current view of suicide?
How can we safely eulogize a teenager without risking contagion?
I have extensive experience training faith leaders and spiritual care providers, including for the Veterans Administration’s National Chaplain Training Center, the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School, the HealthCare Chaplaincy Network, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis. I also developed the nation’s first-ever program on the neuroscience underlying mental illness and have delivered programs for young people and parents around mental health.
A complete list of speaking engagements and consultations, including religious organizations, can be found here.
I can help clergy and faith communities address the questions, emotions, concerns, and fears that inevitably arise around suicide, through:
Consultation with clergy and other congregational leadership on sermons, memorial services, and crisis support
Training for faith leaders and spiritual care providers; and
Educational discussion forums and sharing sessions for community members, including teens and parents
For more information, or to schedule a consultation, contact me, and we'll take it from there.
"The Focus on Mental Health conference began a crucial initiative to engage faith communities in the holy work of supporting people in their darkest and most despairing moments. It informed all of us how to help in productive and compassionate ways and addressed and allayed fears that may prevent us - even subconsciously - from reaching out to those who may be suffering alone. It was most important in allowing us to grow as caring communities."
"Your workshop for congregational leaders helped me lay the groundwork for my sermon on mental health. The mixture of facts, therapeutic approaches, and text not only provided the raw material I needed, but helped expand my personal and professional perspective. The one-on-one assistance that you gave me during my sermon preparation helped to ensure that my message would resonate with the widest possible audience, especially those whose lives are touched by mental illness."
"The work you do is a blessing."
click below to read
Six Things Every Spiritual Care Provider Should Know About Suicide