suicide

Are many religious flocks simply too afraid to help depressed, suffering people?

Are many religious flocks simply too afraid to help depressed, suffering people?

Week after week, the Rev. Todd Peperkorn listens as pastors talk -- in private -- about people wrestling with loneliness, depression and urges to commit suicide.

Most ministers believe they know their own people and their struggles. Then things start happening that reveal dark secrets and pain in the lives of members of their parishes, said Peperkorn, senior pastor at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Rocklin, Calif.

"What I hear pastors saying is, 'I didn't know. I didn't see it. Now I see it everywhere and I can't stop seeing it,' " he said. "Pastors want to help. They want to do the right thing. Most of all, they are scared that they will do something wrong and make a situation worse. …

"At some point, you can get so involved in the details of people's problems and their needs that you feel like you don't have the time or the energy to pray for them and carry on with all the other things that pastors need to do."

There's a reason that Peperkorn ends up on the other side of these conversations over coffee or on the telephone. He has openly discussed his own experiences as a patient diagnosed with clinical depression.

A decade ago, he shared what he has learned in a book entitled "I Trust When Dark My Road: A Lutheran View of Depression." Here's one unforgettable image from his story: During one busy Holy Week, he found himself writing an Easter sermon -- while, at the same time, pondering how he could commit suicide.

Right now, many pastors -- especially evangelical Protestants -- have been shaken by the death of the Rev. Jarrid Wilson, associate pastor at the Harvest Christian Fellowship megachurch in Riverside, Calif. He was best known as the co-founder of Anthem of Hope, a mental-health ministry dedicated to helping people struggling with depression, addiction and suicide.

On Sept. 9, Wilson appealed to his Twitter followers for prayer as he prepared to lead the funeral of a "Jesus-Loving Woman" who took her own life. A few hours after that service, Wilson sent out a poignant tweet.

"Loving Jesus Doesn't Always Cure Suicidal Thoughts.

Colorado students network to unplug key social-media apps, and an archbishop notices

Colorado students network to unplug key social-media apps, and an archbishop notices

Anyone trying to reach Cason Kurowski and his family at night in their home outside Denver needs to remember one thing.

Unlike most high-school juniors, Kurowski doesn't keep his smartphone within an arm's length of his pillow. In fact, the whole family leaves mobile phones downstairs at night, including his parents.

"It's amazing how much it helps me get a better night's sleep, since my phone isn't going off all the time," he said, reached on his smartphone (#DUH) after classes at Heritage High School in Littleton, Colo.

Wait, there's more. Back in September, Kurowski and some friends made strategic -- some would say radical -- tech changes after the news of two teen suicides, in two days, at area schools. Some students in this circle were friends with a Heritage student who committed suicide last year.

After several planning sessions, they launched OfflineOctober.com and urged friends to delete four specific apps -- Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter -- from their phones for a month. The goal, Kurowski explained, was to stop "hiding behind screens. … We wanted to try spending more time face to face, instead of just looking at phones."

The project grew through word of mouth, calls, emails, texts and, ironically, social media. Local news coverage helped spread this slogan: "Don't post a story. Live one." Students started planning informal gatherings to cook, play games, go hiking or just hang out.

At some point, their work caught the eye of someone whose support could help take the movement to another level -- the leader of the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver.

A widow's thoughts on ministry, after an Ashley Madison tragedy

Christi Gibson knew that her husband, the Rev. John Gibson, was working himself to the point of physical collapse, while fighting depression at the same time.

There was his faculty work at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he taught communication in the undergraduate Leavell College, including a "Ministry Through Life Crisis" class. He was served as the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Pearlington, Miss.

As if that wasn't enough, he kept volunteering -- working in New Orleans' brutal heat and humidity -- to repair cars for seminary students and others who couldn't afford mechanics.

"John stayed busy to the point of absolute exhaustion," said Christi Gibson, in a telephone interview. "I often came home expecting to see signs that he had worked himself into the ground and collapsed."

She knew about his struggles, but didn't expect to come home on Aug. 24 and find his body, dead at age 56. There was a suicide note in which he confessed that his name was among thousands released after hackers hit the Ashley Madison website that promised to help customers arrange sexual affairs, with complete anonymity.

Since then, Christi Gibson and her grown-up children, Trey and Callie, have struggled to work through their grief. They have also tried to use their terrible, unwanted moment in the public spotlight -- including a CNN interview -- to urge fellow believers to be more honest about the pain and brokenness found in pews and pulpits.