Home Christian News Kayla Stoecklein: Suicide Isn’t Always a ‘decision’

Kayla Stoecklein: Suicide Isn’t Always a ‘decision’

Kayla Stoecklein

Kayla Stoecklein, the widow of Pastor Andrew Stoecklein, who died by suicide earlier this year, opened up about living life without her husband in an interview with Lysa Terkeurst. Kayla shared she doesn’t believe her husband chose to commit suicide; rather his depression rendered him incapable of making a rational decision during a “moment of intensity.”

“We don’t believe it was a decision,” Kayla told Terkeurst in an interview published to Terkeurst’s Facebook page. “It wasn’t him. He wasn’t capable of making a rational decision” at the point he attempted suicide, Kayla explains.

When Kayla refers to her husband’s death, she doesn’t say he “committed suicide,” but that he “died by suicide.”

Andrew was the senior pastor of Inland Hills Church in California, a position he filled after his father, Dave Stoecklein, passed away from leukemia. Andrew had served as senior pastor for about three years before he died, leaving behind his wife and three very young boys.

Kayla Stoecklein Describes the Struggle With Depression That Took Them All by Surprise

In the interview, Kayla gave a brief recap of the events that led up to her husband’s death.

In November 2017, Andrew started having panic attacks. At first, doctors thought he had a problem with hyperthyroid disorder. However, blood tests revealed the panic attacks weren’t caused by hyperthyroid. Kayla says Andrew was experiencing two or three attacks each week, including one right before he was scheduled to preach seven Easter services at Inland Hills.

Leading up to the attacks, Kayla said Andrew had been “running fast” for seven years. She believes the combination of his father dying from a prolonged battle with leukemia and Andrew stepping up to take over the senior pastor position put a heavy strain on Andrew. The family thought he was just burned out and needed a rest.

In April, Andrew was diagnosed with depression, which left Kayla “stunned and scared.” The church leadership put Andrew and his family on a forced sabbatical. The whole summer they were home, Kayla said she didn’t know what kind of mental state Andrew would be in on any given day. He was “crying all the time” and isolating himself. Kayla said the depression manifested in ways she didn’t expect. She admits it was very hard to “come alongside him” during that summer.

Kayla emphasized Andrew’s family was doing everything “by the book” to help him. Andrew was seeing psychiatrists and he and Kayla were seeing a counselor a couple hours each week. The couple even went on a trip for two weeks without their children, and Andrew went on trips by himself as well.

In August, the doctors thought Andrew was better and allowed him to go back to work. Andrew was excited to preach a sermon series called “Hot Mess,” which touched on difficult topics such as depression. Kayla said they had been very honest and open to the congregation about Andrew’s struggle with depression. “A lot of people suffer in silence,” Kayla said, and Andrew felt strongly that being honest with the members would encourage those suffering alone to get help.

The Last 72 Hours of Andrew’s Life

Things went from OK to bad very quickly, though. Kayla said after Andrew preached a couple sermons in his new series, he experienced a “trigger” one Thursday that he was “never able to recover” from.

On Friday, August 25, Andrew’s family knew he needed some help, which they were trying to offer “from a distance.” Kayla said they called inpatient places and different pastors who were close to Andrew. As they were trying to set up help, though, Andrew attempted suicide. He was rushed to the hospital, where doctors were able to revive him, but he needed to be placed on life support. After doctors ran a number of tests, however, they decided “it wasn’t good” and took Andrew off life support.

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Megan Briggs is a writer and editor for churchleaders.com. Her experience in ministry, an extensive amount of which was garnered overseas, gives her a unique perspective on the global church. She has the longsuffering and altruistic nature of foreign friends and missionaries to humbly thank for this experience. Megan is passionate about seeking and proclaiming the truth. When she’s not writing, Megan likes to explore God’s magnificent creation.