Lifestyle & Human Interest

Pastor and Mental Health Advocate Loses Own Battle with Depression, Dies by Suicide


People across the country are grieving the loss of a California pastor who spent his life advocating for others’ mental health. On Sept. 9, 2019, the eve of World Suicide Prevention Day, 30-year-old Jarrid Wilson lost his battle with depression and died by suicide.

Wilson, who had been an associate pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship for about 18 months, is survived by his wife, Juli, his two sons, Finch and Denham, his parents and siblings.

He was open about his own struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts and sought to help others who also struggled to find hope in Jesus, which is why he and his wife founded Anthem Hope, a Christian nonprofit. According to its website, Anthem Hope is “dedicated to amplifying hope for those battling brokenness, depression, anxiety, self-harm, addiction and suicide.”

Just hours before his death, Wilson tweeted about officiating a funeral for a “Jesus-loving woman” who also died by suicide and asked for people to pray for the family.

He later published a tweet that directly spoke against the common misconception that faith in Jesus results in mental health prosperity.

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“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,” the late-pastor wrote. “But that doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t offer us companionship and comfort. He ALWAYS does that.”

Wilson’s wife Juli opened up about her heartbreak after her husband’s death on Instagram.

“I have to say that you being gone has completely ripped my heart out of my chest,” she wrote. “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.”

But in the wake of her husband’s death, Juli is continuing his legacy by fighting back against the lies that depression and anxiety so craftily spin.

“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,’” she continued. “Your life’s work has lead thousands to the feet of Jesus and your boldness to tell other 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.”

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Greg Laurie, the senior pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship, wrote that Wilson’s death shines a light on the fact that pastors and others in ministry struggle with their own demons.

“At a time like this, there are just no words,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

“Sometimes people may think that as pastors or spiritual leaders we are somehow above the pain and struggles of everyday people,” Laurie continued. “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.”

Other Christian leaders who were touched by Wilson’s life and ministry have also made comments on social media in response to his death, encouraging their followers to seek professional help, to check-in on their friends and to recognize that the battle against mental health is a spiritual one.

Christian speaker and author Carlos Whittaker shared his anger over his friend’s death in a series of Instagram Stories, which are no longer available.

“This is not just a mental issue. It’s not. It’s spiritual,” he said. “We are in a war. It’s warfare. Anxiety and depression is sweeping across our country, our world, and it’s warfare.”

“We’re going to have to, have to, have to deal with this in the church. We can’t leave it up to the medical community. We are going to have to deal with this in the church. It’s an epidemic and I’m freaking done and you should be, too.”

Annie F. Downs, another Christian speaker and author, expressed in a series of Instagram Stories how her longing for Jesus’ return was amplified shortly after learning of Wilson’s death. She also emphasized how important it is to check in on “your people.”

“On a day where we’ve talked about suicide for the whole day yesterday because it was World Suicide Prevention Day and on a day where someone that so many of us know and love died by suicide, you need to check on your people,” she said. “And ask the hard questions. Ask them if they’re okay, ask them what they’re thinking about.”

Friends of the family have started a GoFundMe campaign to help support Juli and her two sons as they grieve their sudden loss. In less than 24 hours, the campaign raised over $45,000.

Death by suicide is a heartbreaking and difficult reality to wrap your mind around — especially if you’ve never battled against suicidal thoughts — but the reality is that mental health issues don’t always disappear as soon as you decide to put your faith in Jesus.

In an Instagram post shared on Sept. 10, Christian poet Ann Voskamp brilliantly summed up how a Jesus follower can simultaneously hold the hope of Christ in one hand and fight against mental health with the other.

“There’s no shame saying that any of you is broken because there’s a Doctor in the house,” she wrote. “There’s no stigma in saying you’re sick because there’s a wounded Healer who uses nails to buy freedom & cross to resurrect hope & medicine to make miracles.”

“Shame is a bully and Grace is a shield.”

We are praying for Wilson’s family as they wade through the murky waters of their grief, as well as all of those who heard the news of his death and lost a little (or a lot) of hope. You are seen, you are loved and your life is worth living.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.

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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
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