The growing problem of suicide among young people is to be discussed at the yearly general assembly of the Church of Scotland in May 2010.
Trevor Grundy writes: Officials of the Presbyterian church say that suicide is one of the principal causes of death for young people in industrialised countries, especially among young men.
Statistics that show Scotland is the part of Britain with the highest incidence of people taking their own lives has led to the issue being on the agenda for 20-26 May church assembly.
Churches are being asked to give their support to the Scottish government's 'Choose Life' programme which is a 10-year plan aimed at reducing suicides in Scotland by 20 percent by 2013. Television adverts are screened regularly. They tell the public that they can reach out and help those contemplating suicide by listening, learning, understanding and talking.
"We all have a role to play," the Rev Ian Galloway, convenor of the Church and Society Council of the kirk as the denomination is known locally. He praised the executive of Scotland's government for launching the television campaign.
In an interview with Ecumenical New International, Galloway said, "It is very good that a problem that is affecting young people in Scotland, particularly young men, is highlighted. While such a complex issue as suicide can most effectively be tackled by professionals, in many cases just having someone to talk to can help, at least initially."
The Rev Lily Twist, chairperson of the Scotland Methodist District, noted, "We are becoming increasingly concerned with suicide rates in Scotland, and are grateful to Rev Ian Galloway for highlighting the issue."
"Through our local churches and networks and through Action by Churches Together in Scotland, we are seeking to understand these issues more fully and to offer pastoral support to those who struggle with dark times. It is clear that this is an extremely complex issue, especially in relation to other matters such as homelessness and poverty," said Twist.
She noted that churches discussed the suicide situation recently with Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond, who heads the government there.
The Rev Geoff Scobie, a retired Scottish Episcopal (Anglican) Church priest and a former lecture in psychology at the University of Glasgow, noted that by world standards Britain is a rich country, "but there is still a huge amount of social and economic inequality."
He told ENI that part of the problem lies in the break-up of the family and traditional Christian values.
"People who are severely troubled are hard to reach but they have to be helped at grass roots level and we need people who are trained to listen and learn as well as talk," said Scobie. "And as Christianity declines, more and more people feel they have a right to do whatever they want to do because there appear to be no moral constraints and that they have full control over their lives."
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]