Mental illness is a complicated issue but Jarrid Wilson and his wife, Juli hope to raise awareness and provide support for those struggling with mental illness through their new nonprofit. Moving to Franklin just a couple of years ago, the Wilsons have started a non-profit called Anthem of Hope. For Jarrid, it is personal, so starting a Anthem of Hope feels like a higher calling for him. We sat down with Jarrid to learn more about Anthem of Hope, how you can get involved and most importantly if you are looking for answers, where to find them.
Tell us what brought you to Franklin?
My wife and I have lived here for about 2 years. And before that we lived in a city outside of Nashville where I was working at a church. After my book deal, my wife and I decided that it was time to step out. If we really want to live the life that I was called to, to write and speak and start a non-profit, which I didn’t know at the time, this was the time to do it.
And so we stepped down and moved to Franklin and we’ve been here for two years now. And the doors have just opened up like crazy. So stepping out in faith really helped.
For most women, that would be a scary proposition, how did your wife support you?
My wife has discernment that I trust 100 percent, she just knows. She has something in her heart that will say “I don’t think this is something that we should be doing,” then I’ll listen to her because she just has this gift of discernment that I trust and I value. When we stepped down from the church it was unanimous that we were supposed to do that. And when it was time to see what we were supposed to do next, she said “let’s really pursue your writing and your speaking.” We went for it. We stepped down from the church while my wife was 7 months pregnant. We stepped down with no backup, not knowing where my next paycheck was coming from.
We had our baby and a month later, we moved to Franklin and speaking opportunities opened up, another book deal came up, a bunch of income opportunities opened up, then after being here for about two years my wife and I decided that now it’s time to dive into that second part we talked about- launching the nonprofit for people with mental health issues. It’s for people struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, self harm and suicide. My side of the story is suicide. We both had a past with worry and anxiety and stress. And we realized that there is still a stigma in the church in regards to mental health, and I can say this with complete confidence.
How do you feel the church handles mental health?
In the church, you either pray it away or you don’t have enough faith. And that’s not right. You wouldn’t tell a seven year old girl who has cancer that she shouldn’t get chemo because that means she’s not having enough faith in God. If you wouldn’t do that, then why would you tell someone with a mental disorder to not be on medication? Pastors would never tell someone not to get treatment for chemo, so why do they tell them not to take medication? The church is very ill-equipped to take on the topic of mental health. There are a few pastors that are doing incredible things with it. One of those pastors is Rick Warren, who I lived next to his church in Orange County. His son had passed away after committing suicide. And Rick, out of that brokenness and trial said “well I’m gonna do something because I realize that the church doesn’t do much with this.” So they were very open and honest with their church, while creating programs in the church. Addressing mental health and creating resources isn’t really a thing in the faith based community.
Can you share with us your own story with mental health?
I grew up in a loving, Christian household. My parents were incredible to me growing up. We had a great family. My dad works for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. When I was 16, I had a soccer accident, the bone cut through the arterties and they basically “superglued” it all back together so I didn’t lose my leg. It still hurts me every day. But because of that, I couldn’t play sports anymore, and that’s what my life was all about.
So I planned on playing college soccer, wanting to try and play pro, and after 16 years of that pursuit, it was all stripped away from me. And so that started in 2005, what would now be a 12 year crazy journey of depression, anxiety, worry and brokenness and when I was about 19, I was in my Toyota Four Runner, I was googling painless ways to commit suicide. Some are born with these kind of thoughts, others have traumatic incidences. I think mine was a little of both. After, I went to the church to try and find help, and nobody offered anything. It was either I needed to pray harder or read my Bible more. Not all churches are like that, but the ones that I went to, that’s how it was. It sucked, because I was hurting, and I couldn’t find hope anywhere.
Long story short, while continuing to battle with that, someone invited me to church, it just so happened to be the day after I was googling painless ways to commit suicide, and they said come to church with me, it’s a guy I went to high school with. I gave my life to Christ, got baptized a few days later, and was like “alright, this is where I’m gonna go.” I started as a youth pastor, writing books, speaking and blogging. I’m very open about depression and anxiety. I’m an ordained pastor, and I have no problem saying that I take an anti-depressant every day. I can’t say that I have fully conquered depression every day, but I know I have God as my rock to lean on no matter what I do. I want Christians and people alike to know that recovery and redemption is right around the corner.
How can Anthem of Hope assist others in their mental health journey?
This non-profit has only been launched for a month and it’s been insane. Our first blog post had over 10,000 shares on Facebook. We have a 24/7 live chat with Hope Coaches that will bridge the gap between those who are broken and those who are in need of professional help. They will always recommend professional help and for these users to join a church. In the last four days, we have had 100 people with over an average of 22 minutes per chat.
I personally don’t think that as a believer, you can recommend one or the other, it should be both. The core values that we came up with are God loves you, life matters and you have a purpose.
I don’t want anyone to grow up how I grew up, not knowing where to get help. I want there to be a place where anyone can say I’m a Christian and I need help. I want to break away the typical stigma and show that we can help. I hope they can take the blog posts and really digest them. We may not be able to get people to break away entirely, but we can at least show them a light at the end of the tunnel.
Thanks so much to Jarrid Wilson for taking time out to talk with us. You can learn more about Anthem of Hope on their Facebook page, to connect with a live chat, visit their website. Keep checking back here for more updates.
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