Review: Preventing Suicide A Handbook for Pastors, Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors

Mason, Karen. Preventing Suicide A Handbook for Pastors, Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014. 233.

I can still remember the day clearly. A barn I was familiar with only  housed animals previously and it never crossed my mind that it would be the place my friend would decide to take his life. The news shot through the high school the next morning as friends came together to comfort each other. There hanging from a ceiling beam in the barn was a familiar face, it was Joe. He never quite fit in at school and it seemed that he tried his hand and everything and, in his mind, always came up short. He left a note that was never made public but we all knew what it was and we were devastated.

81BeQvvJcVL._SL1500_It’s in moments like we had back then and ones that happen every day, that volumes like Preventing Suicide A Handbook for Pastors, Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors, become so handy. Written for those in the trenches, this book is so timely and, sad to say, so needed. In a world that is quickly losing it’s hope, Karen Mason has provided a deep look into the epidemic that is on the rise. As the subtitle would suggest it’s for those in roles ready to deal with questions about life and suffering. It’s written for those who face these things on a daily basis, but it’s not only for them. Here parents and siblings, friends and neighbors can benefit from a reading of this material.

I’m in a position, vocationally, where I see the all too familiar words, “I want to kill myself”. Paired with that phrase I often see, “I just want to go to sleep and never wake up”. I often find myself asking what can be so bad that these people would want to end it all? In the midst of deep depression or anxiety, or for that matter a whole host of medical issues, lies a sense that all hope is gone for any light in their darkness. These people, more than anyone, need to see the light that the gospel offers. It’s not that they are in a deeper pit than the rest of us but it seems like they don’t see anything other than the pit.

Mason does an excellent job of offering the reader practical resources and further training in helping those struggling with suicide. It’s nice to get a psychologists view on things sometimes because I feel it blows a fresh wind into the mind and not with lofty philosophical terms. This book is clearly written and well researched. It has stats that at most are grossly understated and often overlooked. There are people in the pews, at the check out line, in the waiting room, in every corner of our little worlds who may be planning the best way to take their life, and this book prepares us to assist those people.

This volume points us to the ultimate gift we could ever give these people, the gospel. It’s a great book to own no matter what walk of life you come from or where you plan on going in life. It would be helpful in all vocations and I hope that more in the church will pick up volumes like this. I’m glad that this book came across my desk at this point in my life professionally. It’s an invaluable resource for ministry outreach and practical knowledge. I give it two thumbs up!

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2 Replies to “Review: Preventing Suicide A Handbook for Pastors, Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors”

  1. As a counselor and chaplain for many years, I would not go near this book based on this review. Truly helping another human being, begins and ends with treating them as a human being, regardless of their faith or the counselor’s faith. It isn’t about using their suffering as an opportunity to preach or proselytize. It’s about being with the other person, listening and doing the hard work of assisting a person through their pain. The “ultimate gift” a good counselor can give is open ears and a shut mouth.

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  2. I agree with you Chris that counselors needs to have a listening ear and be slow to answer those who come in to receive counseling. However, if we don’t give them the gospel then we miss out on presenting them with the real cure for whatever ails them. People need a counselor who listens but they need the Great Counselor to find rest in the midst of their trials.

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