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We’ve lost another one.

Another husband, father, and leader . . .  gone. Another person whose life ended prematurely. Another encourager of pastors whose helpful voice was silenced.

Megachurch pastor Darrin Patrick died on May 7th, at age 49. Patrick was a teaching pastor at Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, as well as the founding pastor of Journey Church in St. Louis, Missouri.

We don’t know for sure what happened, but it looks as though the gunshot wound he died from appears to have been self-inflicted. We don’t know if it was accidental or on purpose. His death is still under investigation.

I didn’t know Darrin Patrick. I’ve only read of him. I can’t vouch for his character, his personality, really anything about him. He went through some really rough spots along the way. My purpose today isn’t to memorialize him, criticize him, or salute him—because like I said earlier—I didn’t know him personally. And yet his death still feels like a punch in the gut.

Here’s what I do know from reading about him: Darrin was a leader, a teacher, and a friend to other leaders. If his death ends up being ruled a suicide, two questions immediately force their way into my mind:

  1. Where was Darrin in his thinking that he felt he couldn’t go on?
  2. Who was he talking to honestly about his state of mind?

Whether or not his passing is ruled a suicide, I feel a mixture of sadness and anger this morning. Sadness for him, for his wife and four children, and for those who looked up to him. My heart goes out to you who knew and loved him. If it was suicide, I also feel anger—not toward Darrin—but over another life lost prematurely. I feel the sting of this tragic event partially due to my own struggle with suicidal depression many years ago. I’ve chronicled my story in the book, Unshakable You: Five Choices of Emotionally Healthy People.

So, I’d like to take Darrin’s untimely passing as an opportunity to highlight the scourge of suicide in our country. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association (SAMSA), in 2017 there were 47,000 competed suicides in the United States. Suicide is the number one cause of death for college freshman in U.S. And the second leading cause of death for children ages 12-18.

Experts believe—but can’t prove—the real number of completed suicides is likely 4 x 47,000. What they do know for sure is for every completed suicide, there are six attempts. So, if we do the math here, 47,000 x 4 x 6 = over one million suicide attempts in 2017 in one of the most prosperous countries in the world. And during the last two months of national quarantine due to COVID-19, suicide hotlines are being overrun with people in emotional crisis.

So, this is our reality. And unfortunately, we as the Church have historically been reactive to the subject of suicide. We tend to talk about it only after a tragedy has occurred.

It’s time to change that friends. To get out in front of this epidemic.

Major depression is a leading predictor of suicide, so I’d like to start by listing the warning signs of depression. These warning signals can be used for self-inventory, and for helping others determine where they might be in terms of depression.

Let me start by reminding you depression is more than just a few bad days in a row. Feeling blue occasionally is something we all experience. It’s a normal reaction to a loss or a setback or elongated stress, but it usually passes with time and talk. Depression is different. Here are some signs to watch for, provided by the National Institute of Mental Health.

If you have been experiencing some of the following symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression:

  1. Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  2. Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  3. Irritability
  4. Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  5. Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  6. Decreased energy or fatigue
  7. Moving or talking more slowly
  8. Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  9. Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  10. Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  11. Appetite and/or weight changes
  12. Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  13. Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Not everyone who is depressed experiences all of the above symptoms. Some people experience only a few symptoms while others may experience many. Several persistent symptoms in addition to low mood are required for a diagnosis of major depression.

If you or someone you love has been experiencing several or more of the above warning signs for more than two weeks, it’s time to see a physician, and to schedule an appointment with a licensed therapist. Depression thrives under the cover of secrecy. It diminishes when exposed to the light of community. If you are having dark thoughts, including thoughts of hurting yourself, get help now. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 1-800-273-8255.

I’m fed up friends. Fed up with lives ending prematurely. Fed up with the collateral damage suicide wreaks on the surviving family and friends. Fed up with the lack of open conversation about it. Let’s take the sad and untimely passing of Darrin Patrick as a clarion call to action. Let’s roll up our sleeves, educate ourselves on the subject of suicide, and learn how to talk about it in a helpful way to the organizations we lead and the people we care about.

In next week’s post, we’ll explore contributors to depression and what we can do to address them. If you find yourself wondering where to turn for help, you can also reach out to us here . We’d love to come alongside you and assist.

Until next time . . .

I’m rooting and praying for you (as well as for Darrin’s family and friends),

John

John Opalewski

Author John Opalewski

John Opalewski is a graduate of Oral Roberts University. He served as a pastor for fifteen years. He has worked in the business world for nearly two decades, serving in multiple leadership roles. John's experience as a leader in both the church and business arenas has made him a sought-after international speaker, coach and mentor.

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