This week is National Suicide Prevention Week, a national campaign designed to raise awareness of the warning signs of suicide. Even those whom we think would be immune to thoughts of suicide may not be. Just a year ago this week, megachurch pastor and mental health advocate Jarred Wilson committed suicide. His death, along with the unexpected suicide of megachurch pastor Darrin Patrick this past May, remind the world that no one is immune to the devastating effects of poor mental health.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., and the second leading cause of death among college-aged individuals. Social isolation and loneliness brought on by the pandemic and national political instability have aggravated these concerns. The CDC reports that anxiety symptoms rose from 8.1% this time last year to 25.5% this year, and depression symptoms from 6.5% to 24.3%.
Christians sometimes debate the causes of depression and anxiety. Are these solely caused by spiritual weaknesses or are they the result of physical and mental causes? Could there be a combination of causes? If we believe that God has plans to prosper us and give us a future and a hope, many may ask why believers still sometimes struggle with thoughts of suicide.
Although many struggles are won through the power of Christ, depression and anxiety don’t always disappear at the moment of salvation. Mental health is both a spiritual issue and a physical issue and needs to be approached with understanding from both sides.
While the release from guilt and the hope of eternal life through salvation can certainly relieve depression and anxiety, we are still currently tied to our fallen flesh and its resulting limitations and weaknesses. Those who deal with suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, eating disorders, sexual immorality and other multi-faceted temptations have a spiritual and a physical journey to health in each area.
If we then understand that the battle for mental health has two fronts, those struggling and those supporting the struggling must fight against it accordingly. Prayer and study of the Scriptures feed the spirit and result in many victories over the power of sin, and professional help from biblical counselors, therapists and doctors can provide effective methods, solutions and support, including appropriate medication.
Or, a self-help action can be as simple as persevering to get out of bed and face the day; for God’s grace is sufficient for the big and little things, and His power is made perfect in weakness.
As National Suicide Prevention Week comes to a close, don’t lose sensitivity for those who fight depression and anxiety. Don’t condescend or make assumptions about your friends or family members and be willing to acknowledge that everyone struggles differently. Bear each other’s burdens in Christian love.
If you personally struggle with your mental health, don’t give up. God sees you, He wants to help you and His grace is sufficient to sustain you through the rest of your life. If you need to talk to someone you can trust, BJU provides free confidential counseling services in offices at the back of The Den. Women’s Counselor Rachel Dahlhausen and Director of Student Care Pearson Johnson would like to talk to you. Seek out help in your fellow Christians, in medical professionals and, most importantly, in the Word of God.