New programme launched to equip religious leaders with suicide prevention skills

Religious leaders, practitioners and representatives attended the launch of the Gatekeepers’ Suicide Prevention Programme on April 26, 2022. PHOTO: CHARACTER & LEADERSHIP ACADEMY

SINGAPORE - Recognising the role religious leaders and practitioners play in the lives of many Singaporeans, a new programme to equip them with suicide prevention skills was launched on Tuesday (April 26).

The Gatekeepers' Suicide Prevention Programme run by charity Character and Leadership Academy aims to help participants identify suicidal behaviours and reduce the likelihood of self-harm by providing practical training on suicide prevention and skills to manage emotions, stress and self-awareness.

The youth development charity's executive director, Mr Delane Lim, said all religious communities play a vital role in planting seeds of hope among its members.

He added: "And hope helps to prevent suicide. It is therefore paramount for all of us as a community to be adequately equipped to help someone by being gatekeepers of their lives.

"If religion can give meaning to people's lives, then religion can also give meaning for them to live on."

The new programme was unveiled during the inaugural Inter-Religious Forum on Mental Health, organised by the Singapore Jain Religious Society at its premises in Eunos.

The forum was attended by 20 leaders from 10 religions, as well as 30 practitioners and representatives from religious, youth and faith-based organisations.

The session included a discussion on how religion plays a part in mental health.

Some forum participants, such as representatives from the Sikh Welfare Council and the Quan Zhen Cultural Society (Singapore), said they were keen to enrol their staff and volunteers in the new programme.

Master Liu Peihua, chairman of the Quan Zhen Cultural Society (Singapore), which trains Taoists priests, said: "As priests, we must not only be able to fulfil the spiritual needs of our followers, but also support them emotionally."

The programme consists of a four-hour virtual or physical workshop that covers case studies, role-play scenarios and quizzes.

Mr Lim said the Character and Leadership Academy aims to roll out the programme to more religious groups and faith-based social service organisations in the coming months, and may also do so with youth organisations in future.

Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth and Social and Family Development Eric Chua, who was guest of honour at the forum, said that it had been a tough two years for all Singaporeans amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

"This programme reinforces how important it is for us to be the eyes and ears for one another, especially for those who really need support," he added.

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