How to Think and Talk About Suicide and Depression

Pastor and mental health advocate Jarrid Wilson died by suicide on Monday, and it has caused many people to painfully and soberly reflect on the realities of suicide and depression, as well as all the other mental health issues that are connected to suicide and depression.

As leaders, the way we think about and address these issues with people demands gracious and careful response and presence. To that end, our friends Kenneth Tanner and Chris Green recently posted some very helpful thoughts.

Here’s Kenneth Tanner on how to think about someone who dies by suicide:

As we join those who mourn alongside the family and friends of Jarrid Wilson we remember that no one who completes suicide is beyond mercy. More than this, and quite to the contrary, God draws near to the poor.

There is perhaps no greater poverty imaginable or harder to experience than the feeling that you must end your own life, or to take the actions that end your own life, except perhaps the loss of a child.

If my view of the cross doesn’t include the absorption of the darkness that leads to such painful despair, if I can’t imagine that God’s love overcomes diseases of the mind and spirit—that Jesus takes all of that pain and redeems it at the cross—then my view of the cross is lacking.

God does not stand outside the experience of this great poverty, in Jesus God dies with all who die, and the victims of suicide are held by Love. Suicide as with all forms of death—precisely as the great enemy of God—has no future.

Death was and is and will be conquered by divine humility and love, and persons who experience this deep darkness and act on it are made in the image of God, and God desires to see their face and embrace them, as with all us prodigals, and we commend them in confidence to the generous mercy of God revealed in Jesus Christ.

And here’s Chris Green reflecting on his own battle with bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety, and an encouragement to pastors to dare to speak of these things in our churches, despite the risks:

Jarrid Wilson’s death hits hard, not least because he was so honest about his condition and had so many friends standing with him. As many of you know, I struggle with bipolar disorder, as well as depression and anxiety. Suicidal thoughts are never far away.

Our fight is exhausting. But we don’t have to fight it alone. Let people help you! Tell the truth about what you’re feeling and thinking. Never hesitate to ask for someone to talk with you, to sit with you, to take you to dinner, to pray with you. Get professional care.

We should pray for Jarrid’s family and friends. And we should honor his memory by speaking up loudly and often about mental health and suicide prevention.

There are some risks that come with being honest about mental health. Perhaps especially in our churches. But they’re risks that have to be taken.

Pastors, we need you to be especially informed, sympathetic, and outspoken. Come alongside us before and after our worst moments and bring peace to bear in ways that make room for hope to spring up again.

Pastors show your church communities how to care not only for us, but also for our families. Our spouses and our children and our parents bear so much of this weight and it is as overwhelming for them as it is for us.

One last word: I am incredibly grateful for the kindness my wife and my parents and my kids and my friends—including many of you—have been to me during these last 5 years. Only rarely have I met with anything but compassion and kindness. I’m lucky. And so blessed.

May God equip and empower you to speak words of life to those affected by suicide, depression, and anxiety this week.

This work by Gravity Commons is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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