Suicide and mental illness is something that is rarely talked about in our churches. For me, that’s a scary thought. Especially since suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10-24 (CDC). And most especially because The United Methodist Church continues to teach and practice anti-LGBTQ sentiments while queer and trans youth are facing staggering rates of suicide. Our young people, like myself, are not just the future of the church but, we are part of the current church. We are willing and need to have these types of conversation in our churches and youth groups.  

Why are we, as young people, willing and in need of these types of conversations in our churches and youth groups?

One, mental illness and suicide can affect anyone. It is not something you choose. Two, everyone in someway has been affected by mental illness and suicide. Wether it’s personally, or through a family member or a friend. Three, we need to know that its okay to talk about are emotions, and how we are feeling. We need to know that its okay to ask for people when were dealing with thoughts about suicide. 

I know for me personally, I didn’t feel like I could talk to any of my pastor friends about what was going on in my mind.

I hadn’t and still haven’t really heard pastors talk about mental illness. But, I took a chance and talked to a few close pastors and that made all the difference. They gave me encouragement and pointed me to the right resources. They pushed me until I saw a therapist, and rejoiced with me when I made enough courage to get on the necessary medicine to allow me to thrive and not just live.

It was terrifying to try and reach out to people for help without knowing how they would react.

Mental illness is something highly stigmatized in our society and in our churches. The fear of rejection was almost too overwhelming, but without having reached out to those trusted pastors, I probably wouldn’t be here to write this today. These pastors helped me get rid of the stigma that you can’t talk to pastors about mental illness and suicide, they were able to help provide tools to help me get connected with the help I needed. 

I kept living because I was told I was never alone, ever. 

I know talking about mental illness and suicide in churches and youth group is scary. Here are a couple of different ideas for churches and youth groups to use:

  • Learn about ways to host support groups for people dealing with mental illness and for those who have been affected by suicide.
  • Have a class about the warning signs of someone who is thing about suicide or is suicidal.
  • Make sure your congregation members and your youth group members know that they can talk to you about mental illness and suicide. 

Know that the start of the conversation is always the hardest but, what can unfold from the conversation can make all the difference in the person’s life.

Hope is real. Help is real. Your story is important. 

If you are a young person in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call the Trevor Lifeline now at 866-488-7386.

Aaron Pazan

Aaron Pazan resides in the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, where they are highly involved in the Conference and Episcopal Area. They are a senior at Central Washington University. In their free time they enjoy hanging out with friends, running, writing, photography, and reading about the emergent culture of the church.

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