For Pete's sake
Recent news reports of the public suicide of Minty Brandley a Staunton River High School teacher reflects in part how things change over time. The teacher is reported to have attended Thomas Road Baptist Church. See N&A "story". The reaction of family, friends and colleagues is understandable.
Conservative Christian churches historically have been ill equipped to deal with mental health issues and the topic of suicide. Typically mental health issues have been relegated as caused by sin. Traditionally those with known conditions have avoided church attendance.
Though the liberal media has ignored the matter, over the past 12 years there in fact has been a substantive positive change in regard to the topic of mental health in the message coming from the Thomas Road pulpit. The message is one of encouragement and hope to those in need of help.
In July of 1993, a Deacon of Thomas Road Baptist Church committed suicide in a public park on Hollins Mill Road in Lynchburg. The deacon at the time of his death was also a administrator with Lynchburg City Public Schools. The suicide happened within a couple of weeks of the suicide (by gun shot to the head) of Vince Foster (an aid to President Clinton). The Lynchburg suicide (a gun shot to the head) received no local media coverage. Such things just weren't talked about publicly in Lynchburg at the time.
A couple of ordinary citizens (one a Lynchburg public school employee) approached Rev. Dr. Jerry Falwell at the deacon's wake and expressed their concern regarding the role of the conservative Christian church in relation to mental health treatment issues. Being fundamentalist Christians themselves they stated the need for positive change. Perhaps it made a difference in the message subsequently heard from the pulpit.
It is time that conservative Christian congregations collectively address the barriers that remain today among their ranks in relation to the topic of mental health treatment. What do you say Dr. Falwell?
Footenote: A medical doctor who was a first cousin of the couple had also committed suicide (with a gun shot to the head) in July 1993 in another state.