Lex McAllister, a contestant on the season of “The Bachelor” which featured Jake Pavelka, died earlier this month of apparent drug overdose. I haven’t mentioned her death, because — honestly — what is there to say? I didn’t know her and I definitely didn’t want to speculate on why a woman would take her own life. But some of you may remember Gia Allemand (from the same season) hanged herself in 2013. In 2010, Julien Hug, a “Bachelorette” contestant from the Jillian Harris season, shot himself in the head.
There are moments when the glittery, perfumed, hairsprayed, romantic facade of The Bachelor is penetrated by hard truths. Three people from the Bachelor family committing suicide should cause us all to pause. But it’s not just the Bachelor franchise. An article in the New York Post article points out that “at least 21 reality-contestant suicides since 2004.”
I don’t know whether reality tv contestants have a higher rate of suicide than the rest of America. But I do know that “there has been a 31% increase in the number of suicides in the U.S.” Whether the suicide is a depressed mom, a middle aged dad, a veteran, or a reality tv star, we have an epidemic… and we shouldn’t look away from it any longer. Though suicide is complicated and happens for many different reasons, here are three things to realize:
1. Suicide is not the answer.**** [please see important update below.]
When Robin Williams committed suicide, people immediately started writing glowingly affectionate things about his passing. Others struck back saying that suicide is wrong and that all the flowery praise being heaped on Williams might actually encourage more deaths. I think we can all agree that that killing yourself is not right, but there’s a time and place to point that out. Julie Gossack is a wife and mother who has had five family members commit suicide, so maybe we should listen to one that has been through the horror of it all. She writes, “Suicide is a sinful choice made by an individual. This statement is neither unloving nor disrespectful. It is the truth.” Of course, it’s not unforgivable… which brings me to…
2. Suicide is not unforgivable.
But that doesn’t mean we condemn people who have made that choice. “Our last action–even a sinful one–does not define the totality of our existence. We are right to remember all that was good and true in those who succumb to the temptation to self-destruction.” The piece goes on to say, “We are saved by the blood of Christ, not by whether our last moment was triumphant or tragic. Suicide should not be lightly dismissed. It is unimaginably painful and displeasing to God. But for the truly repentant, truly believing, truly justified child of God, God is greater than our sins, even ones that grip is in our dying breaths.”
3. There’s hope for people who are sad.
I don’t know how to address this issue without getting all Christian on you. Know why? Because the world doesn’t really offer much hope. That’s why you see beautiful, wealthy people commit suicide as well as people who might be considered outcasts. Matthew Wireman is a Christian who has struggled with suicidal thoughts. He writes:
This is where the gospel meets us. The sadness you feel over your sin and the world is exactly how you should feel. The darkness surrounding you is real. No shiny, happy people holding hands here. Grief and disgust is entirely appropriate for our fallen world.
When I had suicidal thoughts in my Christian life I used to condemn myself for thinking such horrible things. I used to try to think of my “happy place.” But I have come to embrace the reality we live in: This fallen world is painful.
God invites you to embrace this sadness, for on the other side lies hope. It may only be a flickering flame, yet it pushes back the darkness. Hear your maker’s voice asking, “Where are you?” (Gen 3.9). And as your head is heavy with grief, you hear his voice again saying, “My soul is so sorrowful, even to death” (Matt 26.38). You hear him as he weeps and cries out in anguish. You feel the torment. You grieve. You feel helpless. And yet, you hear his voice again asking, “Why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” (Jn 20.15).
This is the beginning of the remedy. In the midst of your garden of sorrow, seek his face. Know that he was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isa 53.3). You are not alone or forsaken.
I am no expert in depression, counseling, or psychology. But I do know that reality is sometimes not fun. If you are on The Bachelor, eventually, the roses, limos, and the romantic helicopter rises stop. But even if you are a normal person with a regular 9 to 5, life will occasionally throw you a curve ball that you don’t feel prepared to catch. This might be the death of a loved one, a lost job, a scary diagnosis, a public mistake, or even an occupational embarrassment.
Don’t give in to the darkness, even when the screen fades to black.
UPDATE: The below commenter made sense, so I wanted to bring your attention to it:
I’m a therapist and have worked with people who were in the hospital for a suicide attempt or who were actively suicidal. These people were in deep pain and we’re suffering from the disease of depression, severe anxiety, bipolar disorder or some other type of mental illness. I can’t speak for all people but all the people I saw were not thinking about taking their life selfishly. They were not in their right mind. Mental illness is a sickness just like any other physical illness. I’m not saying that taking your own life is the answer, nor am I saying this to invalidate the love ones that the person left behind, but I think we have to be gentle with this topic.
I didn’t mean to neglect or ignore mental illness in my post. Mental illness is a disease which ensnares tens of thousands of people each year and takes them to places which they would have never taken themselves. My sincerest apologies for not making my points more clear
Buy my New York Times Best Selling Book For the Right Reasons: America’s Favorite Bachelor on Faith, Love, Marriage, and Why Nice Guys Finish First to learn more about how Catherine and I met!