Testimony: Caleb Stephen

Mental health is an uncomfortable topic. It feels especially taboo in Christian circles. But truth is millions of Christ-loving people of all ages worldwide suffer from depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

I’ve fought depression for the last five years, worked with individuals suffering mental illness on the streets, saved people from the brink of suicide and have witnessed the colossal impact suicide has on family, friends and the broader community.

If you suffer from mental illness, know you’re not alone. It’s okay to not be okay—mental illness isn’t your fault and there is hope and healing for you.

Not only have I experienced depression myself, but I’ve seen it on the streets. I volunteer in the emergency services, risking my life to save others. I’ve seen, heard and smelt a lot of crazy, confronting stuff that thankfully many never have to deal with. But it’s being vulnerable about my own personal mental battles that scared me the most.

So why am I speaking up now? Well, being vulnerable is what it takes to break the stigma. It’s not weak to say, ‘I’m not ok, I need help.’ But it’s not easy either—it takes humility and raw courage.

By being brave and speaking up, we enable others to share their story—which I believe is a crucial part of finding healing. Just knowing that you’re not alone is so empowering.

Throughout my fight with mental illness, all I wanted was understanding and validity. I didn’t want pity, only hope. Mental illness in today’s world isn’t treated like a physical injury is. If you break your leg you’ll be smothered with love and support. But when you open up about the demons you fight daily often there’s silence.

For five long years I bottled up my emotions and faked happiness. I’d pretend life was perfect. But nobody knew how many tears I cried or how many nights were spent sleepless, washed out by suicidal thoughts. I was raised in an awesome Christian home and had fantastic parents, but absolutely nothing could have possibly fireproofed me against the horrors of mental illness.

My first of many suicide attempts was in 2013. I struggled with feelings of utter desperation, suicidal thoughts and self-harm.

I planned my death and drafted suicide notes. I’d stand on train platforms and wish I was on the tracks instead. During a holiday to the Australian outback, I was found by cops after walking off into the sandy red desert desperately hoping to perish. I honestly just wanted to die, to be permanently free from the relentless pain and anguish.

Depression doesn’t come from God. It’s not His fault and as tempting as it may be, don’t blame Him for it.

I was heavily obsessed with guns and got approval to undertake firearms training and apply for a licence. But I just couldn’t do it—I knew I’d be tempted to take my own life. Things were that bad.

I went off the rails and made some stupid mistakes that I still regret. I was on a search for love and acceptance; trying to fill a deep, empty void in my heart—but I ended up creating even deeper heartbreak for myself.

In early 2018, I tried to take my own life and wound up in a hospital mental health ward. But here’s the good part—God found me in the middle of this mess and brought me close to Himself.

Through the recovery process, I have experienced unmerited love, grace and favour from Jesus. He has given my life a sense of meaning and purpose and given me hope for the future.

Depression doesn’t come from God. It’s not His fault and as tempting as it may be, don’t blame Him for it. Even when you can’t see or feel God’s presence, He has promised to walk by your side through the darkness. And when God promises something, He stays true to it! He loved us so much that He sent His son Jesus to die for our sins and rise again so that we might be free. This means we can be victorious in our daily struggles!

Everybody wants to try and fix depression. But fact is you can’t actually fix it—there’s no simple solutions. This doesn’t mean you should let it define you, rather embrace it as part of life’s journey. Allow God to change you.

I’m stronger than ever because of what God has allowed me to go through. I‘m more empathetic and able to reach others drowning in pain. For those things, I am forever grateful.

Life is short, tomorrow is not guaranteed. The pain on this earth is temporary but God’s everlasting hope is forever. So learn to live in the now. Enjoy today and appreciate the little things. There IS hope for tomorrow. I have seen God’s blessings come through ashes and healing through tears.

It’s only in the darkest of times and the deepest depths of despair that God really holds us close to Himself. It’s then we can truly begin to appreciate His relentless love for us.

One thing that helps me is meditating on the comforting words of 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV: ‘But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’

If today you feel like giving up, remember you’re not alone. You’re so very loved and there is help, healing and hope for you, because of Jesus.

About the author

Caleb Stephen

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Testimony: Caleb Stephen

Mental health is an uncomfortable topic. It feels especially taboo in Christian circles. But truth is millions of Christ-loving people of all ages worldwide suffer from depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. I’ve fought depression for the last five years, worked with individuals suffering mental illness on the streets, saved people from the brink of suicide…

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