BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.(BP)– After Gardner-Webb University alumnus Frank S. Page lost his daughter to suicide, he discovered a calling to help others battling mental health illnesses.
Page, now president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, visited GWU March 17 to encourage students, local ministers and community members who are dealing with their own mental health challenges and the trials of others.
When his daughter Melissa took her life in 2009, Page faced the grief that suicides cause for thousands of American families, marriages, churches and friends each year. Since then, he’s shared his trials through public appearances, sharing his family’s story on the radio and in his book, “Melissa: A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide,” and chronicling the comfort he gleaned from Scripture.
“My daughter’s death is a way to minister to others,” Page shared with the GWU community during his visit to campus. “Christ is the only source of hope there is. My daughter committed suicide five years and four months ago, and the Lord has never left me.”
Quoting John 16:33, Page told those in attendance that the Bible says people will face tribulation in life, but that God will provide the ultimate peace in all situations. He urged people facing mental health issues and thoughts of suicide to seek help.
“This University has many people who love you and will help you,” he told students. “Please seek godly counsel from people who will point you toward a Savior who will love you unconditionally for the rest of your life.”
Page, a 1973 GWU graduate who majored in psychology, also led a discussion of suicide prevention and response strategies with dozens of ministers, chaplains, divinity school students and others during his visit to GWU. He advised churches to help comfort individuals battling mental health illnesses by refuting bad theology that preaches incorrect doctrine about what happens to people who commit suicide. He also stressed the importance of teaching ministry leaders to be sensitive in counseling and providing a place of unconditional love.
A pastor for 37 years himself, Page implored ministers to nurture their own mental health, the well-being of their children and families, and to find the right balance of personal and pastoral responsibilities.
“Suicide and mental health are real, and they cross all ethnic, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds,” he said. “There are cultures who struggle to talk about it. We need churches that are places with people who are extra sources of grace.”
In 2013, messengers to the SBC annual meeting passed a resolution on “Mental Health Concerns and the Heart of God” which affirmed the dignity of those suffering with mental illness, supported “the wise use of medical intervention for mental health concerns when appropriate” and called on the church to provide compassion and support to individuals and their families (See related Baptist Press report). The motion prompted Page to name an advisory group to gather suggestions on ways Southern Baptists can more effectively minister to people with mental health challenges.
A link to Page’s message audio is available at gardner-webb.edu/newscenter.