Been a while. Not really a writer, but I’ve been compelled a bit lately. So bear with me.

Side note: I was midway through writing this blog when I found out about a Jarrid Wilson passing away Monday by suicide. Jarrid was a young pastor with a wife and young kids, so this hits me in a unique, close-to-home way on many fronts. The fact that he was who he was and still struggled, underscores the need to talk about this stuff. And the fact that suicide, depression, anxiety – they aren’t picky… they’ll come after anyone they can.

But it also reveals the need for real hope.

We’re currently in the middle of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week. But unique to our community here, we find ourselves just a year removed from multiple teenage suicides that heavily effected our schools, churches, youth ministries and broader community. As I reflect, I find myself conflicted. On one hand, I feel discouraged and desensitized, and on the other hand I’m challenged to push back with some hope.

To me, a huge problem is that we don’t know how to talk about it, how to help people through their struggles, or how to process these kinds of tragedies when they happen. So instead of hope-filled-but-still-honest conversations, we see a lot more of hope-lacking-sensationalism that hurts more than it helps.

I’ve noticed that the broader conversation around depression, suicide and mental illness tends to go to two extremes:
1) We can’t talk about it. It’s taboo. We pretend it doesn’t exist – whether our own struggle or that of a friend. We may not say it, but we often communicate, “Just get over it.”
2) Let’s talk talk talk about it, make shows about it and share posts about it. We often say or hear it said, “We need to talk about this more.” It kind of makes us feel good. It becomes a “thing,” but nothing seems to change.

If I’m be totally honest, I’ve found myself on both sides. As a faith person, I believe in Jesus – that he’s greater than depression, anxiety, dark thoughts. But that doesn’t mean they won’t come! It also doesn’t mean that someone struggling is bad or should feel ashamed. It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to have fears. It’s GOOD to go to counseling. It’s GOOD to talk about it. We can’t deny it, cover it up or pretend it doesn’t exist. If anything, that makes it worse. But on the other hand, I’ve found so many to just fold and forget the power in Jesus’ name and in His word. That Jesus is our ever-present help in time of need. That I can cast my cares on Him, because he cares for me! Our struggles are real, but so is God.

So, we’re left in the middle. What do we do? How do we deal? Rather than being more aware of what not to do, what not to say and how not to make things worse, let’s talk about what we CAN (AND SHOULD) DO.

Here are a few scattered thoughts:
*Please keep in mind that those of you who are struggling may read this through a different lens than those of you whose friends, peers or loved ones may be struggling.*

1. Be preemptive.
It’s never too early to be a really good friend. Have a friend who struggles? Encourage them before they’re down. Make this a habit.
2. Be that guy.
Go deep with your friends. Have real convos. Be open and ask your friends to be open. Fake does no one any good. If they don’t want to open up, they may just not know how. Or if you’re honest with yourself, it’s possible that you’ve communicated over time that going deep just isn’t your thing. It’s not too late to change that.
3. Live a life that says, “I’m here.”
Your tweet, your insta-story, your t-shirt? They’re needed. But what’s more powerful? Phone calls. Eye-contact. Real smiles. Encouragement. An outstretched hand when no one else sees it. A phone in your pocket rather than in your hand. Being present. Saying, “I’m here” is great. Showing it has real power.
4. Grief is okay! But it doesn’t own you.
Grief is neeeeeeeeded. It’s part of the process – but it has to end. You may never “get over it” – but you have to “move forward.” You get to be in charge of your grief. Will there be days where you feel it more? Sure. But use it as fuel!
5. Break the habit of allowing issues to linger.
I feel this one lately. People allowing dumb things to get in-between them. And then, they approach one another without any commitment to restoration. Gossip becomes their vice, and healing is prolonged. Friends, family, people – their lives matter too much to let stuff sit. Deal with it.
6. Watch what you rehearse.
Feelings are real. Pain is real. But don’t rehearse it. The struggle is *actually* real. But so is God. Meditate on His word. Rehearse the GOOD stuff (Philippians 4:8; 1 Peter 5:7). Rid your day of the stuff that causes your mind to stay busy and full of vanity. Some reading this spend hours throughout the day on Snapchat, rehearsing negativity and perpetuating surface-level relationships. It only ever helps to send people on a downward spiral. Get some worship music on your Spotify (here’s a good one), spend a few reading your Bible, go to Church! You’ll be surprised at how much it helps!

I could go on-and-on, and maybe I will soon. But I’ll wrap it up here. Please remember, no matter who you are, that God loves you. He really does. And if you’re discouraged, don’t run away – run towards! Get to a church, a youth ministry, something. It will nurture your soul more than you know!

A few helpful links:
a. We did a message last year on this stuff that might help you or a friend. Listen to “Hot Topics: Depression & Anxiety” here.
b. Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
c. GoFundMe for Jarrid Wilson here (there are multiple – not sure if any are verified).

Love you all. This all feels heavy, but I’m HOPEFUL. God is good.