Today, September 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day. There is no doubt that suicide is at epidemic levels, both in the United States and across the globe.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2016 alone and, as such, it is listed as a “leading cause of death” in the United States. Rates are increasing annually, along with mental illness running rampant in our society. There has never been a more crucial time to talk openly about this most troubling of issues.
Christians would be foolish to think that suicide cannot affect them. Just a few weeks back, a much-loved pastor, husband and father of three, Andrew Stoecklein, killed himself after battling depression and anxiety. He was 30. Another well-known California pastor, Rick Warren, and his wife, Kay, lost their son Matthew to suicide back in 2013 — he was only 27.
“Pastors are human & susceptible to mental illness,” Kay Warren wrote on Facebook recently. “Some, like dear Pastor Andrew Stoeklein, bravely share their struggle. Others keep it hidden. Just because a pastor talks about their own mental health doesn’t mean they aren’t still at risk. Pray for your pastor.”
“For every completed suicide in the general population, there are 25 attempts, and thousands more who think seriously about ending their lives,” Warren wrote in a 2017 article for the Washington Post. “Pastors are not exempt from these statistics.”
Rick and Kay Warren have spoken openly about her struggle to come to terms with her son’s death, and Kay has become a devoted advocate for those who suffer from mental illness and suicidal thoughts. Her testimony is powerful, and it is worth spending a few minutes listening to her words today as we pray for all those who are thinking about ending their lives.
“I have been touched by suicide,” Kay shared in a 2014 testimony. “Twenty-five years ago, my next door neighbor left her suicide note on my front porch. Her husband called me and told her that she had shot herself in his presence. I rushed to the hospital.”
“My cousin’s husband, an incredible pastor, took his life — he hung himself in his barn and she found him,” she continued. “Then, my youngest son Matthew ended his two-decades-long battle with mental illness after numerous hospitalizations and suicide attempts.”
“I’ve had anger at God, that God didn’t stop him,” Kay admitted. “There has been a loss of pleasure in all the parts of life that are so good. There has been aching to hold my child in my arms one more time. I’m brokenhearted to know that I’ll live every single day of my life without him.”
“But I’ve also felt held in God’s arms,” she added, noting that the Lord is the only one who is able to provide comfort during times of such all-consuming grief.
“If you’re struggling today with mental illness, I just want you to know you are not alone. There is hope,” Kay said in a recently released video by JesusCalling.com.
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Posted by Jesus Calling by Sarah Young on Thursday, September 6, 2018
“Please don’t isolate yourself. It’s a natural thing that we do when we feel sad, alone or anxious — to isolate and withdraw,” she said. “Sometimes that’s because we don’t want people to know. But that just increases that sense of anxiety, loneliness and depression.”
“The very first thing I’d tell you is please connect with other people in your life who love you,” she said.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, contemplating suicide, or you just need someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you need counseling services in your area, consult the Christian Counselors Network.
On this World Suicide Prevention Day, consider committing to pray for those engaged in this very real spiritual and mental battle.