MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Dozens of community and faith leaders gathered at Messiah Lutheran Church in Marquette Friday for special training on suicide prevention.

The idea of this training is to empower faith leaders with the tools to have courageous conversations about suicide. Michelle Snyder, director of the Soul Shop movement shared with us why she likes working with smaller communities.

“I can go to charlotte and do one for 150 people. there might not be anybody in that room that knows anybody in that room. in a small town you’ve got community stakeholders sitting next to people they go to church with. because of what we do in soul shop which is about leveraging community momentum to make structural societal change. when you get people in a room together who know each other in the same community, it can really light a fire. that’s what today felt like. it felt like a group of people who can carry this conversation on long after I’m gone. which is cool,” said Snyder.

Some leaders drover from as far away as Sault Ste. Marie to be part of the Soul Shop. Others including Pastor Molly Eversoll at Messiah Lutheran Church, shared their big takeaways from the training.

“The hugest takeaway is just naming suicide. Not sidestepping it. And how many people are affected by suicide. I know it’s something the majority of people have thought about in different ways throughout their lives and have been affected by it. Thinking about it as a health epidemic is very powerful,” said Eversoll.

Pastor Eversoll said the training was incredibly relevant considering the losses in Marquette and surrounding communities over the last year. Attendees like Susan Harries from St. James Episcopal Church in Sault Ste. Marie said they’ve noticed the need for more resources when it comes to suicide prevention.

“It is a difficult subject to talk about it in the last year with the suicides that have happened, especially concerning our young people. So it is incredibly relevant. I think a lot of community leaders gathered here today and it is important that people in places of power are the ones initiating the conversations.”

Harries hopes to meet with the congregation of her church and bring the training back to them.

“We still need to be attentive to those needs. So I feel much better equipped, having gone through this part of the training to look up resources but also just to be able to talk with people about suicidal ideation or any of the other things that may be influencing how they are feeling at this particular moment,” said Harries.