“Andrew Stoecklein, pastor of the California megachurch Inland Hills, died by suicide Aug. 25.
The minister had returned to preaching two Sundays before, following a four-month involuntary sabbatical to address mental health concerns.
Before a packed church, a seemingly re-energized Stoecklein, 30, detailed his battle with depression and panic attacks.
Several life events triggered his mental illness, he said, the congregation offering "Amen" in support. His dad’s passing in 2015, followed by a stalking incident that forced his family to move, personal health issues and work stresses, proved too much. He became irrational and was taken to the emergency room. There, he began a road to recovery.
God still has great plans for our family, Stoecklein and wife, Kayla, told the church Aug. 12.
But the positive outlook didn’t save Stoecklein.
On Aug. 24, an unnamed person discovered the pastor unconscious at the church. Suffering from self-inflicted injuries, he died in a hospital the next morning.
"You were right all along, I truly didn’t understand the depths of your depression and anxiety," Kayla Stoecklein wrote in a blog post directed to her late husband.
Days later, the church began a fundraising campaign to benefit her and the couples’ three young children, raising more than $70,000 in 24 hours. Church members expressed their devastation and love for the family on social media. Fellow pastors offered condolences and opened a discussion regarding mental-health treatment within the Christian church.”
When I learned of Stoecklein’s death, I felt a familiar ache.