My Struggle with Bad Theology and Mental Health

The stigma surrounding mental health is worse in the church than just about anywhere else. The church lacks education and, unfortunately, compassion when it comes to those suffering with mental illness. Lack of compassion and education is met with an abundance of dangerous theology. What you're left with is a poison that is literally killing weary travelers, seeking refuge.

Bad Theology and Mental Health

Today on The Preacher's Forum Podcast, I have the honor of sharing my story of recovery from abuse and a suicide attempt, plus my frustration with the Christian Machine that continues to pummel people in the name of God.

Click here to check out my conversation with Clint Heacock and leave your thoughts in the comments!

If there's going to be any hope for the church today, we've got to continue to have these vital conversations.

Listen now by clicking right here.

What You Should Know about "13 Reasons Why"

“Did you like [13 Reasons Why]?” she asked. “I don’t think this is a show you can like,” I said. “But it’s powerful. Whoa.”

What you need to know about 13 reasons why

I’m not sure anyone can truly like a series that includes bullying, rape, and suicide. But they can certainly be moved by it. Touched. Impacted. Changed. Awakened.

If the goal of 13 Reasons Why is to start a conversation, they succeeded. There are questions from this series that beg to be asked. Conversations that demand attention. The show pokes holes in the unfortunately common public school administration, shows how harmful an ineffective high school counselor can be, sheds light on the toxicity of the jock environment that thrives in many high schools, and urges parents to not shy away from uncomfortable conversations with their kids.

The Most Important Question

Clay Jensen’s character asked a common question after suicide, “Did I kill Hannah Baker?” We all want to know if we contributed to their pain. Everyone wonders if there’s something they did that contributed to the end of a person’s life, or something they should have done to save it. But I think there’s a question that’s even more important.

The show demands that we, every single one of us, become proactive in asking, “Who am I killing?”

Who am I killing? With my words? With my actions? With my inaction? All of our lives are sermons. We are all preachers. Whether we have a faith or not, we’re all selling something. Even  the Bible encourages us to be “living epistles.”

What message are we sending to the world? Is our sermon that physical beauty is the ultimate goal? Are we preaching a message that women only exist to meet the desires of men? Do we shout to the world that athleticism creates heroes and might makes right? What’s our sermon to our neighbors, our children, our students, ourselves?

A Message to Parents

Don’t assume, just because your child (or loved one) seems to have it all together, that they aren’t secretly dying inside. In my own situation, I was faking it. Faking life, faking confidence, faking that everything was okay. No one - not my best friend, not my mother, my pastor, or any of my teachers - knew the depths of my despair.

No one knew when I wrote suicide notes for the first time at the age of 19. I sat on my bed in my parents’ basement and had it all planned out. I would end my life the same way my Aunt did, with a garden hose, hooked to the exhaust. No one suspected the church youth leader and class president longed to die because he was so ashamed of his own childhood sexual abuse. No one felt the dampness of my tear-soaked pillow as I begged God, night after night, to take my pain away.

Final Warning & Challenge

13 Reasons Why is needed. It is a phenomenal opening dialogue to a discussion many are desperate to have. But the show, by itself, could also be incredibly harmful. I would not allow any child to watch this alone. I wouldn’t want any adolescent to view this series without adult supervision. And in fact, I would highly encourage parents to sit and watch this with their children.

But don’t leave it there. Have the conversations. Ask the questions. Sit with the tension. Let the sorrow and anger and turmoil wash over you. Be drawn in by the voices of depression and angst, shame and despair. Let yourself be present with those you care about. And don’t you dare walk away from the experience without asking your loved ones if there is anything they need to talk about.


  1. Crisis Text Line - If you are immediately concerned about yourself or a friend, reach out for help. TEXT: 741741
  2. JED - To learn about emotional health and how to support a friend, visit: For more guidance on talking to friends and family about the series click here
  3. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255, En Espanol: 1-888-628-9454, Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889 -

Why I Don't Really Care What You Believe

I was recently invited for an interview by a woman I've never met before. Sure, we've conversed over Twitter from time-to-time, but all I really knew about Erika before we sat down is that she is an atheist and she has DID (dissociative disorder). What could we possibly have in common? Well, friends, more than you could imagine.

Why I Don't Really Care What You Believe

In the course of a little more than an hour, we talked about:

  • kindness
  • compassion
  • the ways people use religion (and the Bible) as a weapon
  • the difference between a pastor and a preacher
  • the dangers of bad theology
  • how DID is often assumed to be demon possession in certain Christian circles
  • recovery from abuse
  • and so much more.

I am honored to be able to share this powerful conversation with you today. I hope you'll take a few minutes to click right here and visit TheWeInMe Blog. Leave Erika a comment, and join the dialogue!

If anything stuck with me from this interview, it's the great reminder that there is space at the table for all of us. That we all matter. That our experiences are as varied as the shades of a rainbow, and that's what makes us all so beautiful.

"Religion is a varied and diverse belief system many are passionate about. God --specifically the Christian god-- is a hot fire button for all whom believe in "his word." What I've personally encountered is pity when I attempt to explain my belief's on the subject. Why? I honestly can't fully explain it. From my perspective (the atheist) it seems those who follow some religious constructs or "faith" truly do believe my soul needs saving or I'm somehow not finding fulfillment. I assure you, I am." -Erika Reva

Click here to read this interview. Thanks so much.

[clickToTweet tweet="'If what I believe doesn't help humanity, then who gives a shit?' #graceismessy #Christianity #religion" quote="'If what I believe doesn't help humanity, then who gives a shit?' -Steve Austin" theme="style3"]

How to Recover from a Suicide Attempt

I was a pastor when I nearly died by suicide. My story, From Pastor to a Psych Ward, is an Amazon best-selling book, and now you can listen to all 13-episodes of my story as a serial podcast on iTunes. Pastor to Psych Ward Podcast

When I left home that Sunday night, I knew my wife and little boy would never see alive again.

I'm Steve Austin. I survived childhood sexual abuse, but the effects rippled through my life for the next twenty-five years. After nearly ten years as a youth pastor and worship leader, I was convinced that my only "out" was a suicide attempt.

Now that I have started telling my story of how to recover from a suicide attempt, people often ask me things like:

  • What's the trick?
  • What's the answer?
  • What made me want to start living again?

My friend, JJ Landis, says, there is no "magic Jesus pill". And she's right. There's no single step that suddenly makes life better or "normal". I walked through a living hell and now I have a story to tell. Jesus is a major part of it, but there was also strong medication, one heck of a support system, and a lot of hard work. Recovery is a long and difficult process, but I am living proof that it is possible.

This story is for anyone who lived through a suicide attempt and is left wondering "what's next". It's also for anyone suffering from anxiety or depression, bipolar, OCD, PPD, or PTSD.

If you've ever secretly longed to die, this book is for you. I'm not a doctor or a counselor. I'm just a real guy with a powerful story to tell. I'd be honored to share my experience with you.

Here's what Amazon readers have said about From Pastor to a Psych Ward:

  • Through practical application and intentional steps toward recovery, this book packs a punch. And it's not just for someone who has failed a suicide attempt: it's perfect for anyone struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, too. Don't miss this book!
  • This book gave voice to the things in my head. This book was exactly what I needed to hear. I cannot recommend this book enough. As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression in the church, reading these words was like a breath of fresh air.
  • Steve is such a talented writer with a true gift of being able to tell about horrific life experiences with truth, dignity, and just the right sprinkling of humor to touch the hearts and souls of the readers.
  • The book goes beyond the trauma story to deal with personal faith in an unexpected way. Not preachy. Very accessible to readers of any--or no--faith. Steve overcomes oppressive and shameful aspects of his religion, and manages to find a faith that incorporates recovery and authenticity.
  • Austin is brutally honest about what it's like to be suicidal. This book is a must-read for anyone who has been suicidal or depressed. It's a great read for family members who are trying to support a loved one with mental illness.

As my gift to you for Mental Health Awareness Month, you can now listen to all 13-episodes of From Pastor to a Psych Ward on iTunes today! Just click here.

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