After the suicide Monday of Jarrid Wilson, a well-known pastor in the evangelical community, Christian leaders across the country are grappling with how to address and help believers struggling with depression and anxiety – including when those struggling are the ones leading the church.
Recent decades have seen more churches embrace compassion and turn away from longtime teachings about suicide and the afterlife.
Suicide is a growing problem in the United States. In 2016, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that suicide had increased 30% since 1999 and that nearly 45,000 people took their own lives that year. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 10-34, and one in five adults experience mental illness each year. Just 43.3% of adults with mental illness received treatment in 2018.
Wilson, most recently an associate pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship, a megachurch in Riverside, California, had been transparent about his own mental health struggles, passionately advocating for churches to help those who were hurting. He co-founded a mental health nonprofit, Anthem of Hope, and frequently posted on social media about his own experiences.
He is not the first prominent pastor to kill himself: In August 2018, Andrew Stoecklein, lead pastor of the Chino, California, megachurch Inland Hills Church, took his own life a few days after preaching a sermon about his struggles with mental health. Both Wilson and Stoecklein were married with young sons when they died by suicide.
Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
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