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Suicide remains an issue in the Christian community. Pastor Jarrid Wilson, a California church leader, author, and mental health advocate died by suicide Monday evening. Wilson, known as a passionate preacher, most recently was an associate pastor at megachurch Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California. A co-founder of the mental health nonprofit Anthem of Hope, Wilson was open about his own depression, often posting on social media about his battles with the mental illness.
The 30-year-old pastor has joined a lengthy list of clergy who have taken their own life and left behind distraught and confused family members and friends. Wilson’s wife, Julianne, and their two sons, Finch and Denham are struggling to get through this difficult time along with the Harvest Christian Fellowship Church family. The well-known senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, Greg Laurie, said:
At a time like this, there are just no words. Sometimes people may think that as pastors or spiritual leaders we are somehow above the pain and struggles of everyday people. We are the ones who are supposed to have all the answers. But we do not.
At the end of the day, pastors are just people who need to reach out to God for His help and strength, each and every day.
According to many counselors, Christian culture is the perfect breeding place for depression. Within these confounds, most pastors are either unwilling or unable to get the help they need and feel forced to suffer in silence. Frustration without the proper outlet can lead to feelings of failure and despair. It is these times of personal crisis that suicides are born due to the lack of support that pastors need.
The job of a pastor is extremely stressful and can be a high-profile job. When the stress is not managed properly it becomes easier to understand how this can send a person down the road to depression. Too often the bar is set so high for these clergymen and women, they tend to get frustrated and feel as if they cannot and will not ever be able to live up to the standards associated with leading others in ministry.
A study from 2010 reveals that a whopping 57 percent of pastors said they would be happy to take another job if they were qualified; 45 percent said they have been depressed to the point of needing time off but could not afford to take off or could not express the need for it; 33 percent said within the first five years they felt a sense of burnout and 25 percent have reported they did not know where to go for help when they were dealing with personal conflicts.
Wilson shared openly about his own mental health challenges in his most recent book, “Love Is Oxygen: How God Can Give You Life and Change Your World,” and various blog posts. He blogged earlier this summer that he had dealt with “severe depression throughout most of my life and contemplated suicide on multiple occasions.” On the day he succumbed to the illness that often tormented his, the pastor posted:
Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure suicidal thoughts. Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure depression. Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure PTSD. Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure anxiety. But that doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t offer us companionship and comfort. He ALWAYS does that.
The news of Wilson’s death comes on Suicide Awareness Day (September 10) and follows a number of high profile suicides among pastors and the mental health community. Juli posted several “tributes” to her husband on Instagram. One of the messages included a photo slideshow shows him fishing with the caption “in his happy place.” Another heartfelt message was stated as follows:
My loving, giving, kind-hearted, encouraging, handsome, hilarious, give the shirt off his back husband went to be with Jesus late last night.
No more pain, my Jerry, no more struggle. You are made complete and you are finally free. Suicide and depression fed you the worst lies, but you knew the truth of Jesus and I know you’re by his side right this very second.
I love you forever, Thomas Jarrid Wilson, but I have to say that you being gone has completely ripped my heart out of my chest. You loved me and our boys relentlessly and I am forever grateful that I had YOU as a husband and a father to our boys.
You are my forever and I will continue to let other people know of the hope in Jesus you found and spoke so boldly about.
Suicide doesn’t get the last word. I won’t let it. You always said ‘Hope Gets the last word. Jesus gets the last word.’ Your life’s work has led thousands to the feet of Jesus and your boldness to tell others about your struggle with anxiety and depression has helped so many other people feel like they weren’t alone. YOU WERE an ANTHEM OF HOPE to everyone, baby, and I’ll do my best to continue your legacy of love until my last breath.
I need you, Jare, but you needed Jesus to hold you and I have to be okay with that. You are everything to me. Since the day we met. J & J. Love you more. You are my #anthemofhope.
Breaking down the stigma of mental illness is one of the goals of Anthem of Hope, the nonprofit the pastor founded with his wife, Juli, in 2016. Anthem of Hope creates resources for the church to assist those dealing with depression, anxiety, self-harm, addiction, and suicide.
Unlike many who suffer from suicidal tendencies, Wilson often spoke publicly about his personal struggle. On social media, he regularly encouraged others dealing with similar challenges with messages like:
I’m a Christian who also struggles with depression. This exists, and it’s okay to admit it.
After learning of the pastor’s demise, many people offered words of sympathy and even shared stores of loved ones who battled the disease of depression. However, one woman who said she is a Spirit-filled Christian said that depression is not a disease and suicide is driven by demons. This comment caused several rebuttals. Far too often, this type of stigma, causes ministers to avoid looking into the treatment they so desperately need. This type of thinking is the reason Anthem of Hope was created.
Suicide has claimed the lives of many within the public and private sector of life. Unfortunately, it has now claimed another pastor. They are simply men and women of faith who are not above the reach of any type of mental disorder. Depression and anxiety are real, but they are also treatable with a combination of medication, prayer, love, and support.
As the primary income earner of their home, his precious wife and their two young kids will need a lot of financial support. Friends of the family have started a GoFundMe account, with permission of Wilson’s wife, to help with financial support in the wake of this young pastor’s death. Please consider donating to the Go Fund Me request to support the pastor’s family.
Pastor Jarrid Wilson was a young pastor who was loved by his family, friends, and congregation. Even still, he battled with mental illness to the degree that it overtook him. In light of the recent tragedy, his wife, family, friends, and church are encouraging anyone who is hurting emotionally to ask for help. The Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255) is a potentially life-saving resource that is available around the clock.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Religious News Society: Pastor, author and mental health advocate Jarrid Wilson dies by suicide
Instagram: Julie Wilson
Christianity Today: Pastor and Mental Health Advocate Jarrid Wilson Dies by Suicide
Anthem of Hope: #yourlifematters
Top Image Courtesy of Harvest Church – Used With Permission
Inline Image Courtesy of PX Here’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Featured Image Courtesy of preacherman’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License