suicide pastor
Californian Real Life Church Pastor Jim Howard killed himself last week after battling mental health issues for a long time, the police have refused to give the cause of death since it isn't a criminal investigation. This is a representational image of a church from which the body of a woman was exhumed after police suspected foul play in Exmouth, Devon in England March 23, 2004. Graeme Robertson/Getty Images

Jim Howard, a pastor of the Valencia campus of the Real Life Church (RLC) killed himself Jan. 23, 2019. Howard was battling mental health issues for a while before he decided to kill himself at his home in North Sunny Creek Drive, San Jose, California.

Homicide detectives said they could not confirm the cause of death since it was not a criminal incident.

The RLC released a statement on Facebook announcing his death. Several comments on the post had users recalling the times they spent with Howard in college and some even identified with his struggle and offered prayers to the family. The church also addressed the death and the crisis of growing suicide numbers in America at their weekend worship Saturday.

“All of us who knew Jim can attest he was a wonderful man with a deep love for Jesus and a passion for sharing the grace of God with anyone he met. He was also a tornado of energy, always looking for new challenges and opportunities to minister to others,” Rusty George, the lead pastor of the church said. “Sadly, Jim suffered in private with mental health challenges— some of which he bravely discussed in public— and he was wrestling with some personal issues in recent months. This week he made the tragic decision to end his pain. He will be deeply missed by his family, friends, the RLC family and all those who were blessed to know him.”

The Real Life Church scheduled a moment to address Howard’s death and also arranged professional counselors to support church staff and volunteers who were grieving the death. The RLC has also urged all volunteers and staff who are struggling with any mental health illness to seek help and call the church, if they feel helpless.

Howard was the lead pastor of the Valencia campus of the RLC that had more than 6,000 members with whom he had shared his struggles with the illness. He had been with the church for more than three years as a pastor. He was recently made the executive director of the family ministry. He had worked hard during the candlelight vigil for Santa Clarita victims of the Las Vegas shootings and a number of other events at the church. People who attended his sermons said that he would be missed deeply.

The data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the rate of suicides in the United States went up by 33 percent between 1999 and 2017. It also showed that suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America and is being referred to as a national health crisis. A professor from Regent University, Virginia and a RED Church pastor Dr. Joy O’Neal said pastors aren’t immune to mental illness and that they struggle with their own insecurities and mistakes. She further said that people go to pastors for help but pastors, a lot of times, have no one to turn to when they need help themselves.

The Jared Monroe Foundation, a Californian nonprofit, dedicated to spreading awareness, understanding and supporting Bipolar Disorder encouraged people to reach out and not be alone during the process of coping up with their illness, “Our deepest condolences to Pastor Jim Howard’s family, friends and the RLC family. Mental health challenges affect everyone. Don’t suffer alone. Reach out if you need to talk. You don’t have to suffer alone,” their statement said.

If you have thoughts of suicide, confidential help is available for free at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255. The line is available 24 hours, every day.