Before I go any further, I want to send my thoughts and prayers to his wife and sons – to his family, followers and fans. It is with a heavy heart that I write this, but it’s also my responsibility – as it was also Jarrid’s responsibility.
I hope you understand my intentions for sharing my feelings…
Jarrid was a passionate advocate for mental health and suicide prevention. He had the megachurch behind him where he was a pastor. I think of myself as a Christian, and I know that there are many pastors out there living with their share of darkness. I have been fortunate enough to work with a number of them, and they have shared their struggles with me. I have become much more aware of these struggles and in some cases, concerned.
As a suicide prevention and mental health advocate myself – primarily working in school communities with teens, teachers and staff, parents and community leaders – I’ve met and conversed at length with many leaders of churches, and they’ve all told me I’m right and to continue sharing the message when I talk about church and mental health.
Pastors are not perfect
Let me just tell you that 53% of pastors have an addiction to pornography and the occupation of being a pastor is one of the highest for suicidal ideation. I don’t need to go further.
This isn’t about bashing any pastor or any church. It’s about full transparency and not hiding behind a faith to heal your heart or emotions – or hiding behind a congregation for validation. We clearly need more truth, and I think our churches have an incredible responsibility in the mental health crisis we currently live in.
I’m angry and I have a right to be. Here is exactly why I feel as though I do. I’ve been speaking and advocating for mental health and suicide prevention for 28 years.
Jeff Yalden: A Man Who Proudly Lives with Mental Illness
I live with mental illness. I’m diagnosed with major depression, bipolar II disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD]. I travel nearly 180 days a year giving hope, educating, and inspiring many – as did Jarrid. I’m very protective of who is speaking and giving hope and educating those who need help and hope. This isn’t something we should take lightly, and I see too many people thinking that since they have a story, they can save lives. People struggling with mental illness require the help of professionals – not people that can trigger emotions and leave pieces to be picked up later.
Jarrid Wilson’s final act of suicide, in my opinion, sent more of a message than any of his work as an advocate. Any hope he’d given to anyone struggling and who trusted in him was negated by his forever decision in the end.
Because of things like this, I feel that my 28 years of working – speaking throughout the country on mental health and suicide prevention – has become more of a challenge, and this was a big slap in the face…
It’s not OK that Wilson, who was in a position of leadership and trust – serving people and doing kingdom work, ultimately decided to take his own life.
I WISH HE KEPT FIGHTING AND ASKING FOR HELP.
I believe there is always help available. Take the time to just breathe…
Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps there is a depth of despair I can’t fathom. I’m learning and trying to understand.
I will not give up, but I am angry and really disappointed in Jarrid. As an advocate, you know the work you have to do because you know first-hand the importance of self-care.
Did Jarrid not live the truth he so proudly displayed in his speaking or the books he’d written? Did he not open up about his troubles to his wife or senior pastor? Did he forsake therapy because he thought turning to God would heal his mental illness? Was he even on medication?
I have questions, and I feel like I have the right to know because I fight the battle myself.
Jarrid’s high-pressure role at Harvest Christian Fellowship seemed to be too much, and one of his friends said that he had expressed an interest in stepping down. Did this sign go unnoticed by church leadership? Was there even a conversation as to why he wanted to step down? Was there support for him?
Is the church too big to include input from mental health professionals?
A person I’d like to have lunch with is Mr. Dale Partridge, a pastor and a friend of Wilson’s. What exactly does he know and what did they try and do for Jarrid? It could be possible that Jarrid himself wasn’t as truthful as he could have been about the depth of his pain.
Before I get out of my car and go into a facility to make a presentation, I always ask God to use me as a vehicle to provide hope, to educate and to plant seeds. I feel strongly that God is with me – but I also feel strongly that God has blessed us with mental health professionals, who are crucial in helping people create a toolbox and resources to help them cope. This is the God I know.
Is it possible that we have churches that are reckless enough to put people with mental illness in positions of leadership? Do certain churches place people into leadership roles even when these people doubt their faith?
Don’t get me wrong. I know we have wonderful houses of worship with fantastic people who lead their congregations – but like anything else, we also have imperfection and unbiblical practices from people who are in positions of great responsibility.
Why are our churches putting these people in such positions? I’ve read that many church leaders have been open about their mental health struggles and their doubts of the Bible and doctrine.
As a man who lives with mental illness, I am the healthiest I’ve ever been, having more fun than ever and feel more present in my work. A huge part of this boils down to the fact that I am doing the work – counseling, therapy, medication and self-care. I wake up early enough to make sure I take care of myself first.
Self-care is not selfish.
I understand that we are busy. I can also understand the “second-hand trauma” associated with serving others who also struggle – listening to them and acutely aware of their pain. It can be very hard. After years in the trenches of mental illness, I have learned that you can empathize and be compassionate, but you can’t carry the darkness of others.
Anyone in the vocation of serving others – especially pastors – need privacy, not publicity. We need diligent prayer, not overwhelming pressure. We need to truly become servants and should refuse to be placed on pedestals. When a church officer falls, it becomes like a domino effect and causes others to fall. This causes ripples of confusion, fear and doubt among the congregation.
God has given clear instructions that offer protection to His church. Every time we decide to break His commands, we only break ourselves. A pastor is not simply someone who is willing. A pastor is not simply someone who is gifted. A pastor is not simply someone who is educated. He is a man who meets all God’s qualifications. This is safety for God’s church.
I don’t feel my words are coming from ignorance., nor, is my belief uneducated. I feel we need to wake up and see the responsibility we have to one another.
In the world we live in, almost half of all adults will experience mental illness in their lifetime. With being “overwhelmed” as a new clinical diagnosis of mental illness, I believe this to be even higher than half.
We do live in a broken world, but that isn’t an excuse. I’m not asking for perfection or perfect leaders, but I’m asking for accountability and leadership where we take care of one another. I’m very open to a pastor who isn’t perfect, but I want a pastor who is doing the work as in, “Do as I do and as I say. Let me lead you by influence. We do this together.”
For anyone living with mental illness I need you to know it’s OK to not be OK. But if you don’t do something about it, then it’s not OK. A true leader should know they lead best by their influence and not by spoken words.
It is not shameful to live with mental illness. It is contagious to seek help and want to get better. You can live a very healthy life when learning about mental illness and not ignoring it.
I do not want to come across as judgmental or shaming, I’m just angry for the work we all do and sad for Jarrid’s family and all those that listened to him.
Please forgive me if I offended anyone with how I feel. Mental health is an epidemic and I will continue to work hard – on myself and in service to others. I will always pray for people like Jarrid that hurt so much and ultimately felt the struggle was too much. For Jarrid’s family, his fans, and the love of my work I will always advocate strongly for self-care and complete transparency.
Let’s all learn and grow together.
Jeff Yalden is highly regarded as the number one Teen Mental Health Speaker in all of North America. Jeff is a Suicide Crisis Intervention Expert and Suicide Prevention Trainer working with hundreds of school communities every year.
He’s an Amazon Best Selling Author of four books, including Teen Suicide: The WHY Behind Today’s Suicide Epidemic and BOOM: One Word to Instantly Inspire Action, Deliver Rewards, and Positively Affect Your Life Every Day! His podcast, Mental Health & Motivation: The Unlikely Life Coach continues to attract thousands of new subscribers every month for his direct talk and influence on families and teens.
Since 1992, Jeff Yalden has traveled to 50 states and 48 countries delivering his message, “About Life.”
From 2005-2011, Jeff was a celebrity teen and family life coach on MTV’s hit realty show MADE.
As a celebrity teen & family life coach, Jeff gets the heart of the matter helping teens, young adults, families, and communities in their struggles together.
He’s a Gulf War Veteran and a two- time Marine-of-the-year recipient 1991-1992. He was Mr. New Hampshire Male America, 1990.
Every year over 1 million people are left inspired by Jeff Yalden’s inexhaustible energy that permeates after he speaks.
Jeff has an online suicide prevention course for school communities, parents, teachers, staff, and teens. Check it out HERE.