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Book Review: Fear Gone Wild by Kayla Stoecklein

Book Review: Fear Gone Wild by Kayla Stoecklein

Book Review: Fear Gone Wild by Kayla Stoecklein

7 September 2021

As we approach World Suicide Prevention Day and R U OK? Day, Kayla Stoecklein’s story about losing her husband Andrew to suicide invites us to break our inner taboos about mental illness.

Reviewed by Jessica Morris

In the past five years, we have seen the Church become more educated around mental illness, resulting in piles of biographies and self-help books from survivors and professionals.

Andrew and Stoecklein were married for eight years and had three children. In Fear Gone Wild, Kayla tells the story of how they fell in love, lived with mental illness, and how her family survived his suicide.

But Fear Gone Wild by Kayla Stoecklein fills a crucial gap – it is the story of how she lost her husband Andrew to suicide and how she and her three young boys rebuilt their lives in the year following.

Andrew Stoecklein was a megachurch pastor at Inland Hills Church in Chino, California. At the age of 30, he spoke boldly about mental health and tragedy, all the while dealing with debilitating panic attacks, anxiety and depression.

The story of his passing and how Kayla and her family have moved forward went global on 25 August 2018, when she asked for prayers for divine healing on social media when he was in the ICU. She went on to blog about her life using the catchphrase, “God’s got this,” which had carried their family through so much tragedy.

This is a memoir of sorts, as Kayla vividly and carefully shares her story. But she weaves her ongoing education around mental illness, her spiritual growth, thoughts on parenting, and letters to her husband through the book, offering it to the Church as a catalyst for hope and healing.

I have read many books on mental illness and faith – it’s a complex and fragile topic to approach because so many of us have been impacted by mental health issues, addiction and/or suicide. And what stood out about Kayla’s story is how disarmingly open she is about her former stigma around mental illness. She is the first to say she thought people with depression were over-reacting, and in one story, she gives a heartbreaking account of how she panicked when her husband mentioned suicidal ideation.

It’s a reminder that for many of us, mental health remains taboo. Yet, as we learn in this story – anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts can impact people who believe in Jesus too. And people in high-pressure ministry positions, like her husband, are vulnerable to experiencing this with an additional level of isolation.

I was particularly amazed by how Kayla vividly recounted her husband’s experiences of spiritual warfare mixed with mental illness, holding a complex subject with dignity and transparency. And by pairing her story with practical tips on how to support, listen to and help a loved one through their own mental illness, she gives people the tools she desperately needed.

As we approach World Suicide Prevention Day and R U OK? Day, Fear Gone Wild by Kayla Stoecklein opens the door for Christians to talk about mental illness. If you have questions, concerns, or feel out of your depth in this area, Kayla’s story can give you spiritual, mental and physical guidance to take the next step.

If you need help, please call LifeLine on 13 11 14.

Fear Gone Wild is available online and at Koorong.

 

 

 

 

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