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Lent starts February 17 - order your devotionals today!
Lent starts February 17 - order your devotionals today!

The Lifesaving Church: Faith Communities and Suicide Prevention

SKU 9780827221826

By Rachael A. Keefe

Book Preview

As featured in Publishers Weekly

Is your church prepared to save lives? Every year, millions of people engage in suicidal activity, yet the Church remains largely silent around mental health and suicide prevention. Pastor Rachael Keefe shares her own painful story of life-long depression and suicidality to help churches recognize and respond to those suffering. Each chapter includes actions to become a lifesaving community; an additional study guide can be downloaded here. Bulk quantity discounts for group study available. Buy 10+ copies and receive a 30-minute video conversation with the author!

"There’s so much silence around suicide in the church that it is quite literally killing us.” — Rachael Keefe

Would you know how to respond if the person sitting next to you in your pew was contemplating suicide? Every year, millions of people engage in suicidal activity, including those in our faith communities. Yet the Church remains largely silent around the topics of mental health, depression, and suicide prevention. How can you and your faith community be prepared to recognize and respond to those struggling for their very lives in your church?

In The Lifesaving Church, pastor Rachael Keefe shatters the taboo of suicide by sharing her own painful story of life-long depression and suicidality—and how her various faith communities responded, for better and for worse. Opening a window into her suicidal behaviors as a young person, Keefe helps us recognize the signs and struggles of those who suffer silently. Reminding us of the Church’s call to be the Body of Christ for each other, Keefe empowers us to recognize the hurting in our communities and recover the lifesaving message of the Gospel — forgiveness, acceptance and love — that helped her to heal. 

With chapters on how to educate your church in suicide prevention, group study reflections around the common questions surrounding suicide, and specific resources, scriptures, and prayers for clergy, suicide loss survivors, and those struggling with suicidality, The Lifesaving Church is critical reading for faith communities seeking abundant life for all of its members.

Download the free Study Guide, with additional conversation starters and more.

E-versions available from your preferred e-reader provider (Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, etc.).



The Lifesaving Church is an unflinchingly faith-filled resource for Christians helping people who are facing mental illness and considering suicide.
Rather than engaging with the complexity of mental illness, too often the church simply clings to the belief that everything is okay. But when lives are at stake, avoidance is not an option. Rachael A. Keefe calls on Christians to understand mental health, recognize the signs of suicide risk, and care deeply for one another.
Keefe draws powerfully from her own personal and ministry background. She dealt with suicidal behavior in her own youth, and she has decades of ministry experience to her credit. She shares vital real-life stories that show the potential healing power of the church, showcasing times that potential has been both fulfilled and lost.
The book tasks clergy and laypeople with dismantling the stigma of suicide and supporting life, even in the face of immense pain. The book’s practical help includes lists of things to say or not say and do or not do when helping people dealing with mental illness, or people who’ve lost a loved one to suicide. Each chapter ends with a short list of “What Your Congregation Can Do Now,” bolstering the urgency and applicability of the book.
While the approach is practical, there are no quick fixes. What the book does best is equip ministers and congregants to care for others early and for the long haul—saving lives, yes, but also transforming their communities into safe places that ensure the thriving of each and every person. That, it claims, is the true gift that God designed for the church to give to the world: healthy life together. And despite the complexity of modern life, Keefe has unswerving faith that the church can live up to its call.
The Lifesaving Church affirms God’s love for people who are in pain."― Melissa Wuske, Foreword Reviews, May/June 2018

"Keefe uses strong narrative and personal insight into the life of someone who struggles with mental illness while searching for God’s—and the church’s—love and acceptance.....By referring consistently throughout the book to the idea of psychache, a term coined by researcher Edwin Schneidman, Keefe emphasizes the human “need to love and be loved and to belong somewhere with someone” and makes the argument that everyone is susceptible to mental illness, which is often a result of unmet psychological needs that the church, through relationship and prayer, is adept at healing. Each chapter is themed around a common human emotion, such as fear, brokenness, or resilience, and at the end of every chapter Keefe creates a tip list with ideas for promoting congregational mental health.....The appendix is full of helpful and practical information for congregations, including information on signs of suicide risk, mental health resources for clergy, resources for suicide loss survivors, and a guide on what to say and what not to say to someone experiencing suicidal thoughts. Overall, Pastor Keefe’s work emphasizes the love of Jesus Christ.... By presenting both a clinical and personal look at suicide prevention in and through the church, Keefe echoes the biblical call to care for those who are hurting by surrounding them with the love and care of the church, the body of Christ."―Lauren Hales, Church Health Reader, Summer 2018

"One compelling lesson evident in Keefe's unsettling memoir is that the scars of childhood bullying, abuse, and neglect linger for a lifetime. Another is that even one hospitable minister, teacher, counselor, or especially in her case an ordinary faith community, can make all the difference in rescuing and revitalizing that wounded child and child-within. In an era of relentless headlines of anxiety and despair, The Lifesaving Church arrives on the scene as a welcome―and welcoming―witness to perseverance and hope."―Robert C. Dykstra, professor, Princeton Theological Seminary

"The Lifesaving Church is a powerful book about suicide prevention that every church leader needs to read. Through compelling and courageous storytelling, followed by practical steps that you can do today, this book is a guide that will help churches fulfill their mission to save lives."―Sarah Griffith Lund, First Congregational Church of Indianapolis and author of Blessed Are the Crazy

"This book weaves the power of Rachael's personal story with theological and psychological wisdom. Suicidal behavior, self-harm, eating disorder, depression, and adverse (abusive and neglected) childhood experiences are realities that connect with her experience of the embodied love of God. This book breaks the silence with her honesty and the depth of her faithfulness and guides faith communities to embody the unconditional love of the divine. 'God is not a fan of suicide,' is a wallop of grace that engages us in the conversation."― Rev. Alan Johnson, United Church of Christ Mental Health Network

"Rachael Keefe courageously tells her story of pain and woundedness and the miracle of transformation that she found in her faith community. This is not just her story. She provides several concrete suggestions for mental health ministry and congregational care. She offers options for preventing and responding to suicide that move beyond platitudes or clichés. She is witness to Christ's promise that exposing her wounds to her faith, community, the body of Christ, will lead to redemption. Once redeemed, Rachael's pain became wisdom. She has been able to use her personal flaws as tools to understand and offer healing, compassionate space to others."―David W. McMillan, Clinical and Community Psychologist

"Rachael Keefe has offered us a fearless telling of her own story of struggle and hope, of pain and healing, and of betrayal and redemption. She has used her experiences of suicidal thoughts (and an attempt), a persistent eating disorder, and a deep “psycheache” to weave a theology of the Church and its purpose of saving lives. Her story serves as both a spiritual and practical guide to congregations as they seek to be a healing and hopeful presence to all they serve, especially those struggling with suicide, addictions, and a sense of separation from God, neighbor, and self. The book includes practical suggestions as well as multiple resources in the appendices."―Christie Cozad Neuger, Emerita Professor of Pastoral Theology, Brite Divinity School