Pastor Darrin Patrick died in May from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Jarrid Wilson was the pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, a megachurch in California and the founder of Christian Suicide Outreach — he took his life in Sept. 2019. In another church tragedy, Matthew Warren, the son of Rick Warren, passed after a lifelong struggle with depression in 2013.
These tragic events sent shockwaves on social media and through the heart of the faith community, filling us with questions like “Why?” and “Why God?”
When we hear of these tragedies, well-known pastors or not — it rattles our souls. Unfortunately, the above accounts are becoming too commonplace in our nation and in our world.
As previously reported on CNJ, eight percent of “adults older than 20 reported having depression during a given two-week period. Of that total, the prevalence of depression among women was almost double that seen in men.” Major depression is the second most debilitating condition, second to cardiovascular disease. Left untreated, depression is ranked the No. 1 cause of suicide.
“The world has entered an uncertain time. Yet, the silver lining that never changes is our hope in Jesus,” said the founder of Global Media Outreach, Walt Wilson.
“Even in challenging times, God provides Good News. We’re in a new era, realizing our familiar structures and patterns will be forever different. As we pivot, the need for God’s hope and love still exists, and we’ll continue to share it.” Global Media Outreach’s vision is to give every person on earth opportunities to know Jesus Christ through digital outreach (they reached two million people in May 2020).
God uses ministries like Global Media Outreach, the church, our communities and each other for hope. But first, we need to call suicide for what it truly is — an “epidemic.”
Coronavirus and increased suicide rates
With Coronavirus also shaking our worlds, people already dealing with depression, and those who never dealt with its iniquitous grip — are increasingly feeling desperate. People are facing isolation, job loss, the death of family members and more. In March 2020 alone, the Disaster Distress Helpline saw a 338 percent increase in call volume compared with February 2020.
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) is concerned about the potential for increased suicide rates due to the pandemic.
“While these steps are expected to reduce the rate of new infections, the potential for adverse outcomes on suicide risk is high. Actions could be taken to mitigate potential unintended consequences on suicide prevention efforts.”
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Americans ages 15 to 34 and the fourth leading cause of death for those 35 to 44.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Most often, suicidal thoughts are the result of feeling like you can’t cope when you’re faced with what seems to be an overwhelming life situation. If you don’t have hope for the future, you may mistakenly think suicide is a solution. You may experience a sort of tunnel vision, where in the middle of a crisis you believe suicide is the only way out.”
It’s a devastating dilemma that touches everyone, and those of faith are not exempt.
Ronald Hawkins, provost and founding dean of the School of Behavioral Sciences at Liberty University, told the Baptist Press, churches aren’t invariably a safe place for people to be vulnerable.
“I and others in ministry have too often looked into the grief-stricken faces of those whose loved ones have taken their own lives,” Hawkins said. “If you have been there, your heart cry is, ‘Please, Lord no more.’ Yet it seems there are always more.”
Take the degradation out of depression. If you need help, talk to your family physician, your pastor or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for more resources in your area. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is made up of a comprehensive network of over 170 local- and state-funded crisis centers located across the United States.
We can be consciousness, empathetic and offer understanding when encountering people going through depression and share a message of “You are not alone.” Sadly, what we do as a church body, as family, as friends and as health professionals might not be enough.
As believers and as humans, we are interlaced in another war, in addition to Coronavirus — the suicide epidemic. Yet, we have the Good News of Christ to supplant the trend. We have a voice to call a hotline or a friend for help. Let’s flip the suicide epidemic on its head — and speak up as a church to change the trend.
Corine Gatti-Santillo is the Editor of CNJ. Her work has appeared in The Christian Post, LifeZette and CBN, among other outlets. She is host of the program “Mom on the Right” on The Liberty Beacon TV. She and husband, Rocky, live in Virginia with their infant daughter, yellow lab Maggie.
Corine Gatti-Santillo has spent two decades as an editor, investigative reporter and web content strategist; her work has appeared in The Christian Post, LifeZette and CBN, among other outlets. She is host of the program “Mom on the Right” on The Liberty Beacon TV. She and her husband, Rocky, live in Virginia with their infant daughter and yellow lab Maggie.