Before he died by suicide, pastor Jarrid Wilson taught us to care for people struggling with mental illness

By Greg Laurie
November 27, 2019 at 6:00 a.m. CST

I will never forget the morning of Monday, Sept. 9, 2019.

I woke up very early, around 3:30 a.m., as I usually do, and I was planning on listening to a podcast when I got a text from my son Jonathan. It was about Jarrid Wilson, a young pastor at our church, but I didn’t understand exactly what the text meant. So I called Jonathan, and he told me the news: Jarrid had died. He had taken his own life.

I remember screaming, “No, God, NO!”

How could Jarrid — the happy, outgoing, loving friend to so many — do this? Jarrid was always the guy with the encouraging word for others. He was the one you could count on when you were down.

In fact, Jarrid had started a nonprofit to help people struggling with depression, mental illness and suicidal thoughts. He himself also struggled with depression from his youth, but because he was able to find strength and solutions in his Christian faith, he wanted to help others as well. He even officiated at the funerals of people who had taken their own lives and offered comfort and hope to their mourning family members.

Mental illness is an epidemic in our nation today, especially among young people. A recent surveyconducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found nearly 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness each year. Among young adults, the rates of mental illness and major depressive episodes are the highest that have ever been recorded. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals aged 10-34, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This is why millennials and Gen Z have been described as the hopeless and loneliest generations.

[If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also text a crisis counselor by messaging 741741.]

The reality of this mental illness epidemic in our nation is something we cannot ignore. Unfortunately, it pains me to say that churches and Christians have not always done a good job at understanding it or ministering to people who are hurting and struggling. Some may wonder, “Why couldn’t Jarrid just snap out of this slump?” Just because we cannot see depression, it doesn’t mean it’s not a physical illness. We wouldn’t ask the relative of a deceased cancer patient, “Why couldn’t he just snap out of his cancer?”

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Greg Laurie, left, and Jarrid Wilson pray during a service on March 14 at Harvest Orange County in California. (Vitaly Manzuk)

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