After Gardner-Webb University (GWU) alumnus Frank Page lost his daughter to suicide, he discovered a calling to help save others who are battling mental health illnesses. Page, now president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, visited Gardner-Webb on March 17 to encourage students, local ministers and community members who are dealing with their own psychological challenges and the trials of others.
Frank S. Page
When his daughter, Melissa, took her own life in 2009, Page faced the immense grief that suicides cause for thousands of American families, marriages, churches and friends each year. In the past year, he’s begun to talk about his trials by making public appearances, sharing his family’s story on the radio and in a book, and chronicling the comfort he gleaned from scriptures.
“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 reminded listeners 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 asserted. “There are cultures who struggle to talk about it. We need churches that are places with people who are extra sources of grace.”
A link to the message audio is available at gardner-webb.edu/newscenter.