The best player of his generation has been recognized as one of the best people in sports.
Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout has been named the American League’s Most Valuable Player three times and is an eight-time All-Star. Wikipedia lists twenty-eight different awards and recognitions he has received. He has been likened to baseball immortals Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle.
His team lost to my hometown Texas Rangers last night, but Trout had two hits in the game. This is unsurprising, since he hit eleven home runs against us last year, setting a record for the most an opponent has ever hit against us in a single season.
Now he is being honored not just for his athletic brilliance but for his personal character. The Angels have nominated Trout for the Roberto Clemente Award, which annually recognizes the Major League Baseball player who best represents the game through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy, and positive contributions on and off the field.
Trout and his wife, Jessica, have made suicide and mental health awareness one of their main causes. This after the suicide of Jessica’s brother, former minor league player Aaron Cox, in 2018.
The Trouts are partnering with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. He explained that the issue “obviously hits close, with Aaron’s passing. Mental health is real, especially during this pandemic. A lot of people are going through it; it’s a struggle. Just raising awareness.”
Why a thirty-four-year-old nurse committed suicide
Suicide Prevention Week began Sunday and continues through Saturday. It is part of the annual National Suicide Prevention Month.
Mike Trout is right: mental health issues are indeed real, especially during this pandemic. The CDC warns that stress during an infectious disease outbreak can cause fear about health and finances, changes in sleep or eating patterns, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, worsening of chronic health problems, increased use of tobacco and/or alcohol and other substances, and worsening of mental health conditions.
Health experts fear that “mental health consequences of the COVID-19 crisis including suicidal behavior are likely to be present for a long time and peak later than the actual pandemic.” Previous epidemics have seen significant increases in death by suicide as people feared contracting the virus and being a burden to their family. Many felt heightened anxiety, social isolation, and psychological distress as well.
Unsurprisingly, there has been a huge increase of calls to suicide prevention hotlines in the US during the current pandemic.
A thirty-four-year-old nurse committed suicide after learning she tested positive for the virus. She was terrified that she had infected others while in the line of duty. A man with cancer hanged himself in a Manhattan hospital after learning that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
A man in Illinois who feared that he and his girlfriend had contracted the virus fatally shot her and then killed himself. A forty-nine-year-old head of the Emergency Department in a New York City hospital died by suicide after telling her family about the horrific suffering and death she witnessed while caring for coronavirus patients.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted”
I am not a medical doctor or professional counselor and am not offering professional advice on the issue of suicide and mental health. However, as a minister, I can encourage anyone who is considering suicide to seek help immediately. I urge you to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to their website at SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.
I can also encourage anyone who knows someone who is suffering emotionally or considering suicide to help them seek help now. And I can assure you and everyone you know that God sees you where you are, as you are, and loves you with a passion you cannot fully imagine.
His word promises: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). Jesus has faced everything you face (Hebrews 4:15) and knows what it is to feel rejection and despair (cf. Matthew 27:46).
Now he stands ready to be the Great Physician you need. He can work miraculously by his Holy Spirit and/or medically through people and resources. He came that we might “have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). No matter where we are or what we face, it’s always too soon to give up on ourselves or on our Lord.
“You are God’s idea”
In Max Lucado’s daily devotional, I found these words recently and was encouraged by them:
“You are so much more than a few days between the womb and the tomb. Paul the Apostle says, ‘It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone’ (Ephesians 1:11–12 MSG).
“Above and around us God directs a grander saga, written by his hand, orchestrated by his will, and unveiled according to his calendar. Your life emerges from the greatest mind, the kindest heart in the history of the universe! The mind and heart of God! You are God’s idea. And remember, God doesn’t have any bad ideas.”
Why do you need this reminder today?
NOTE: My friend Chris Elkins has written a powerful reflection on the suicide of one of his best friends. I encourage you to read his article about pain and hope today.