EDMOND — Organizers of a recent interfaith suicide intervention training workshop for spiritual leaders said news of the suicide of a metro area teen shook the session.
Ken Elliott, coordinator of testing services and director of the Violence Prevention Project at University of Central Oklahoma, said the tragedy helped emphasize the significance of the training the leaders had committed to undertake.
“We're all invested in this, and we were just devastated,” he said.
Elliott was one of the coordinators of the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training class held Aug. 30-31 at First United Methodist Church of Edmond, 305 E Hurd. Elliott coordinated the event along with the Rev. Charles Lillard, recently retired longtime UCO campus minister with Baptist Collegiate Ministries. The training class was co-sponsored by the church and the University of Central Oklahoma.
Elliott said about 18 metro-area faith leaders attended the sessions and the group was heartbroken to learn on the workshop's second day that an Edmond area youth had taken his own life the day before.
One of the clergy leaders offered a prayer aloud for the youth's family and others affected by his death.
“It gave us hope. It moved us forward to know that we are doing the right thing,” Elliott said.
He said he and Lillard, along with UCO, had been hoping to offer the class geared for clergy for a long time and they were pleased with the turnout. The class participants participated in role-playing exercises, among other things, designed to help them discuss the still taboo topic of suicide with their congregations and members of the community at large.
“UCO is willing to reach out to leaders of all faith traditions, as faith leaders are often perceived as safe people to go to in times of general crisis and specifically during a suicidal crisis,” Elliott said.
The Rev. Don Vaught, minister of discipleship and administration at First United Methodist-Edmond, said church leaders were excited about being able to host the event with the nearby university. He said faith is a critical component in the suicide intervention process. He and the church's senior pastor, the Rev. Bertha “Bert” Potts, participated in the workshop.