I Was a Pastor with a Broken Brain — Guest Post by Steve Austin

I Was a Pastor with a Broken Brain — Guest Post by Steve Austin

The thing most people find rare about my story is that I was a pastor on September 21, 2012. I had lost all hope and tried to hang myself in a hotel bathroom that night. When that failed, I crushed the contents of bottle after bottle of medication and drank to my death.

I was raised in the church. I served on youth leadership. I traveled with the Gospel choir in college. My feet had touched the soil of three foreign countries, preaching and spreading the hope of Jesus. I had two years of ministry school under my belt. I was passionate about the unconditional love of God, but I was just as determined to end my secret suffering.

Breaking the Stigma of Suicide: No More Shaming or Scaring

Stigma tells us suicide only happens to those people  — whatever that means. Until we are the ones with suicidal thoughts, or until someone we love attempts or completes suicide. Then stigma shames us to silence.

Stigma thrives on fear, silence, judgement, and quiet whispers — keeping suicide in the dark. We’re scared to talk about suicide because our stomachs clench when we think about it. Or we’re afraid of saying the wrong thing and making things worse. Maybe, we’ve been there and we’re afraid of judgement.

It’s time to shine the light into the darkness. You know, like Jesus calls us to.

Stop Calling People Names

The common narrative says people who commit suicide are selfish cowards. But let’s stop and T.H.I.N.K about that for a minute.

Is it true?

No. Most of the time people considering suicide honestly believe people would be better off without them. They are wrong about that, but in their minds it’s not selfish at all. Many people who reach the point of suicide have been fighting internal battles for years. They are not cowards.

Is it helpful?

No. Calling someone who already feels terrible about themselves names is not helpful.

Is it inspiring?

No. Does this one need an explanation?

Is it necessary?

No. Calling someone a selfish coward is not necessary to help them overcome their struggles.

Is it kind?

No. Again, does this need an explanation?

Proverbs 18:21 warns: “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”

Let’s use our words to bring life — especially when we’re talking about suicide.

Stop Scaring People

Yesterday I read a Daily Mail article about the attempt to sweep the 9/11 “jumpers” under the rug. No one wants to talk about them or investigate their deaths because of the cultural narrative saying they were cowards, and the religious one saying killing yourself sends you straight to Hell. The article does a great job of addressing many of the reasons it’s ridiculous to say those things about people who were facing certain death, so I won’t go into that here.

I want to talk about the idea that suicide send you to Hell because I’ve heard it many times.

How you die does not determine your eternal destination. There is only one thing that determines where you go when you die. Do you have a relationship with Jesus? If yes, then you go to Heaven when you die. If no, then you go to Hell. Whether you commit suicide or not.

Suicide does not send you to Hell. It is not the unforgivable sin. So let’s stop telling people it is.

Now, if you are thinking about suicide, and I just made you feel better about it, please understand this is not permission to kill yourself. Jesus wants to meet you in your pain and bring you into abundant life here on Earth.

If you are thinking about killing or hurting yourself please don’t do it. You are loved. Please get help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “Go” to 741741, or call 911.

Start Listening

If you want to help someone who wants to kill themselves, or you want to help prevent suicide, start listening.

This year’s theme for World Suicide Prevention Day is: Connect. Communicate. Care.

That’s how we lower suicide rates. That’s how we help individuals in our lives.

The first step in breaking the stigma and in helping people is genuinely listening to them. Try to understand what they are going through. Don’t interrupt.

Then we can empathize with them and share the hope we have in Jesus. Don’t spout a bunch of cliches at them. We can share our stories with them and what Jesus has done for us. Get them professional help if they need it.

Start Talking

Another way we break the stigma is by talking about suicide. Talk about our experiences. Call out lies and hurtful comments when we hear or read them.

Becoming someone people feel safe talking to means becoming a person who is not afraid talk about hard subjects with love, grace, and truth.

You know, like Jesus did.