LAST week this paper reported Stroud’s worrying level of suicide figures.

In 2008 the rate was below the national average.

By 2012 it had soared to almost 40 per cent above it.

The figures, in a report by Gloucestershire County Council, showed as many as one third of those who took their lives in the county during this period had contacted mental health services.

Cllr Dorcas Binns, GCC Public Health and Communities cabinet member, said: ‘“Every suicide case is a tragedy for everyone involved and prevention remains a top priority for the county.”

Suicide prevention in Gloucestershire is run as a local health priority with councils, police and health organisations working together.

But one wonders if Christian and other faith groups have a role here?

Mahatma Gandhi once said: ‘A religion that takes no account of practical affairs and does not help to solve them is no religion.’

But how do those of faith show practical compassion relevant to present day society?

Do we see religion as equal to alleviating and even solving major life problems?

Jesus said, ‘Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, heal those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases, and drive out demons.’ Elsewhere in the Good News Bible, he perhaps even more remarkably said: ‘I am telling you the truth: those who believe in me will do what I do—yes, they will do even greater things...’

Jesus was one of the most compassionate people to have ever walked the earth.

So it’s heartwarming that 2,000 years later there are places of worship, including the church I attend, which opens every day to offer a warm welcome to everyone.

But it goes further than just a cheerful smile and firm handshake.

They can be sure of someone who will stop everything to listen to them, who will talk of God’s healing power and their worth as His image and likeness and, that as His children, they are in possession of all their Father-Mother’s qualities.

Doesn’t that suggest we are not only loved and valuable but that each of us has the tools to make a difference?