Kay Warren: What to Do When You’re a Pastor Struggling With Suicidal Thoughts

My cousin’s trembling voice uttered the unthinkable. “Kay, I need to let you know that Wayne took his life this morning.” My knees collapsed under me. “No! How can this be? What happened? Why? What was wrong with him?”

My mouth formed tumbling questions despite my mind being frozen in disbelief and grief.

Through his tears, my cousin told me his brother-in-law had struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts for some time. His family thought Wayne was truly improving after he agreed to see a therapist.

On the morning of his death, Wayne said goodbye to his wife, Lynn, as she left for work. But Lynn felt uneasy and came home at lunch to check on him, only to find the worst had happened.

On the kitchen counter was a note he wrote apologizing for hurting his family, telling them he loved them and explaining that he just couldn’t go on. Wayne made sure the dog was safe in his kennel before he ended his life.

Raised on the plains of West Texas, Wayne Oglesby was a preacher’s kid who followed in his father’s footsteps. He met my cousin, Lynn, in college and they made a fine team—vivacious, warm, football-fanatic, Jesus-loving folks who pastored small churches for decades.

Wayne is not the only pastor or faith leader to experience mental illness, addiction, financial difficulty and thoughts of suicide. Sometimes the media blares the news of a pastor who dies by suicide, but often, they die quietly, unnoticed by many outside of their church and the local community. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for every completed suicide in the general population, there are 25 attempts and thousands more who think seriously about ending their lives. Pastors are not exempt from these statistics.

Wayne devoted countless hours to the duties of a pastor—preaching, teaching, marrying, burying, visiting the sick, showing up in the wee hours of the night for those in need. But over time, his life slowly began to change. Sometimes pastors and congregations don’t mesh well, even when there’s nothing really wrong, and Wayne and Lynn were asked to resign from a church they were serving. For the first time in his adult life, Wayne was no longer a pastor. Still in his late 50s with many years ahead of him, he was rudderless. He had never been great with money management, and he began to overspend, taking on more debt than they could handle. He started drinking too much. He found employment as a chaplain for a funeral home, but it just wasn’t the same as being a pastor.

Depression set in, and he fought hard against the way it sapped his energy and sense of well-being. He often expressed disappointment and confusion on the way his life turned out. The guilt he felt for overdrinking and for putting his family’s financial future at stake ate away at his peace of mind.

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SOURCE: Charisma News