Adam Weber was one of the last people Jarrid Wilson reached out to the night he died by suicide. Seeing those texts from Jarrid now “makes my heart hurt,” Adam wrote the morning after his friend ended his life.
The mission, though, is continuing. Jarrid’s wife, Juli, is picking up the mantle where her late husband left off. Adam is the pastor of Embrace Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where the ministry Anthem of Hope, the advocacy organization founded by Jarrid and Juli, will hold its first event since the September death of the associate pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California.
“What better place to start than the last place Jarrid looked to for hope, and that’s what we’re gonna do,” Juli told Faithwire, “we’re gonna go share some hope.”
Juli and Jarrid, who was outspoken about his struggle with mental health, launched Anthem of Hope in 2016 “with a passion devoted to help equip the church with the resources needed to help better assist those struggling with depression, anxiety, self-harm, addiction, and suicide,” according to the nonprofit’s website.
On Thursday night, Embrace Church is hosting the first Anthem of Hope event — “Depression and Suicide Awareness: A Night with Juli Wilson” — since Jarrid passed away.
Both Juli and Adam want the event this week to serve as a safe space for those struggling with anxiety, fear, depression, suicidal thoughts, or self-harm. They want to continue spreading the message Jarrid preached even until the day he died: just because you struggle with mental health doesn’t mean you’re a bad Christian.
The surviving mother of two young boys — Denham and Finch — also wants people to remember pastors “are people, too.”
“We all have struggles we deal with, regardless of what our calling is or what we do for a living,” Juli explained, noting there’s a “stigma” around pastors admitting they struggle with their mental health. “Just because you deal with depression or anxiety doesn’t mean you have a lack of faith and that you can’t be a solid believer and have everything in your heart right and your head can still have some issues.”
It’s time for Christians to “step up” and “get serious” in the way we talk about mental health, she added, even if it makes us “a little uncomfortable.”
In the aftermath of her husband’s death, Juli said she felt “instant love” and acceptance from her church community. But she knows that, for many, that’s not their story — they don’t receive the kind of hospitality she and her family have felt since Jarrid took his life. Instead, they feel “shame, and isolation, and questions, and that’s just not how it should be.”
The support she has received, Juli explained, is proof she is “reaping the benefits of a life well-lived,” referring to her late husband’s commitment to his faith and community. Everyone, though, who is in her situation should feel loved and cared for, she said.
Through this season in her life, Juli has also learned ways she can be a better friend and advocate for those walking difficult paths.
“For so long, it was so easy to just say, ‘Well, have you seen a counselor?’ I still ask everyone; I still encourage that,” she reflected. “I think everyone should go talk to somebody because we all have junk we have to deal with. But at the end of the day, I’m learning now to pause and listen, too, because as much as people need a counselor, they need a friend — they need a brother and sister in Christ, and they need someone to listen without the intent of giving advice. Until I’d gone through this with Jarrid, I didn’t understand the need that people had just to be heard.”
Part of “stepping up and being the church” is listening. Believers don’t “have to have the answers,” we simply need to be “available,” she added.
As for Adam, despite having preached on mental health in the past, he said he feels like he’s “late to the game” in learning how to address this topic as a pastor, a vocation he began at the age of 24, the same year he led his first funeral for a guy he met and hours later ended his own life.
“For me, even as I’m sitting here talking, I feel sad that it took losing a dear friend for me to really push it,” he admitted, referring to Jarrid. “When it comes to people talking about [mental health] early, Jarrid and Juli led the way. They’ve been talking about this for years, and in many ways, were kind of a lone voice in actually talking about it. I feel in many ways like I’m really late to the conversation, yet, thankfully, with God, we’re never too late to begin having conversations.”
Both Adam and Juli said it’s important for these conversations to take place because it’s a sign to those struggling with mental health that they “are not alone” in their fight. It’s also a chance, the Embrace pastor said, to “point people to Jesus” and “take away the stigma” of mental health treatment.
The greatest tool believers have, Juli said, is hope — it’s “clinging to what we do know instead of what we don’t know.”
“Give [those struggling] the reassurance that they are valued and seen and that they’re cared about,” Juli explained. “At the end of the day, that’s just kind of what hope is: it’s that extra dose of encouragement that everything’s gonna be OK. We might not be able to tell people exactly what’s gonna happen in their lives or what’s next, but we can give them assurance that good is coming because we know that’s what God says is gonna happen.”
“Hope,” she added, “is reassuring them that what God says is true.”
So how can I pray?
For the event Thursday night, Adam asked for prayer for “those in the battle” as well as those who have “been a loved one to someone in the battle.” The pastor’s “bigger” prayer, though, is that Anthem of Hope would spread and that other church leaders would examine how they are addressing mental health issues with their own congregations and in their communities.
“I hope it’s something much bigger than one night,” he said.
Juli echoed everything Adam shared about the event at Embrace. And on a personal level, asked for prayer for her sons as she learns to “navigate raising them with, now, a testimony at the ages of 3 and 4.”
“They already have a really heavy story,” she said of her boys. “And I know that God must have something really big for them. I always ask people to pray for them because God has something so big prepared for them.”
She is confident God is going to use this live-altering part of their young stories “for good in their lives.”
Juli also asked for prayer for her team at Anthem of Hope, whose staffers are “hitting the ground running” as fast as they can “in honor of Jarrid.”
“I’ve said this before, and I just believe it to be true: this wasn’t Jarrid’s anthem,” Juli said. “This was something he found in Scripture and took seriously and was just to help people who were down and help people who couldn’t go on anymore. That’s the heartbeat of this anthem, and I think that’s why so many people resonate with it — because it’s from Scripture and it’s what God’s called us to do. I just pray we’ll all step up as the church and not let this be another sad story, but something that catapults us to where we need to be as the body of Christ.”
“As the church, shame on us if we don’t step up,” she added. “I just pray we will take God’s Word seriously and unite to talk about it, because it’s not just sad stories; it’s real lives that are being affected.”
If you or anyone you know is struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts, or you just need someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you’re looking for counseling services in your area, consult the Christian Counselors Network.