Effects of the COVID-19 crisis have caused economic devastation and a tragic increased risk of suicides. Dr. Tim Clinton shares how to bring truth to the darkness.


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Tim Clinton wrote, tragically, suicide is a real and terrible reality and the church is not immune to its touch. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, the second for Americans age 15 to 34. On the average 121 people commit suicide in America every day. One in three people who die by suicide are unemployed at the time of their deaths. And for every one-point increase in unemployment, the suicide rate tends to increase by .78 points. So, what if, in America, we reach an unemployment rate of 25 to 30%, God forbid.

Dr. Tim Clinton, who is the President of the American Association of Christian Counselors. It’s the largest and most diverse Christian Counseling Association in the world. Dr. Clinton also serves as the Executive Director of the James Dobson Family Institute. He’s a recurring host on Dr. James Dobson Family Talk, third on nearly 1,300 radio outlets every single day. Dr. Clinton is licensed as a professional counselor and as a marriage and family therapist. Tim Clinton is also recognized as a world leader in mental health and relationship issues. He spends much of his time working with Christian leaders, and professional athletes, as well as ministering to the President of the United States. He’s authored nearly 30 books, including The Struggle is Real: How to Care for Mental and Relational Health Needs in the Church.

Here’s our interview with Dr. Tim Clinton.


We’re going to talk through some difficult subjects and suicide being at the heart of all of it. Let me say this on a personal level, when I drive into work, it’s surreal, really. I mean, no one’s hardly on the road. You go by restaurants and people– the parking lots are empty. And you’re pinching yourself and saying, “Wait a second, the sun is shining, there’s grass growing, what in the world has happened to us?” Regarding suicide, my mind went immediately to a story of someone in our locality here who got sideways in a business transaction, very visible at the end of the road because his mind wouldn’t shut off. One of the key things that starts happening with suicidal people, is their mind doesn’t shut off. It’s this rumination piece that kicks in and you want to turn it off but the amygdala in your brain just keeps firing and you’re on hyper-alert, and you’re trying but it won’t stop. Eventually, it led him to a place where he drove up into the mountains and ended it.

For years I’ve taught thousands of college students a psychology of relationships class. I would ask them as a part of the class—there would be a moment regarding suicide—how many of you know of someone close to you, who either committed suicide, attempted suicide, or battled significant thoughts of suicide? I’m talking about someone close to you, not someone you heard about. Invariably, their answers are in the 95 plus percent. So, if you don’t think this stuff is real, you’re not living in this old world as they say. It is real. With the extraordinary pressure and stress that you mentioned that we’re going through right now, people are afraid. They’re not just afraid of finances. They’re afraid of a loved one getting Coronavirus. They’re afraid of getting it themselves. They’re dealing with all kinds of extraordinary stress and pressure financially. They’re dealing with, quote, “Looking at each other locked down” and trying to figure out how to relate and they’re petrified over their kids and everything. These are unprecedented, and extraordinarily challenging times.

The very first thing we’ve got to do is acknowledge where we are. People often ask me, “Tim, if you talk about suicide, won’t that drive people to commit suicide?” We’re finding the answer is no. Stepping into that moment and having those conversations can actually help save someone’s life. Because people who are suicidal, don’t hate life. They hate life the way it is, and they don’t believe it’s gonna change. Or there’s like nothing they can do. They’re boxed in. It’s a moment.


I want to be hopeful in this respect. I think we have got to begin to have a national conversation around this. I saw where Pastor Jack Grant from Prestonwood Church in Dallas was on Fox in Dallas. Jack was openly talking about his own depression and more—his battle he went through himself. That’s the kind of stuff we’ve got to get after. We need to start having conversations. My people perish because of a lack of knowledge for a moment. The church has been so far behind the curve in talking about mental health. The good news is we’re starting to talk about mental health. We need to have these conversations at a whole other level, not to depress ourselves, but to give each other hope. Not to be “pollyannaish,” by the way. The scary thing is when people are dealing with stress and anxiety, a lot of people who wrestle with anxiety, they worry about things that aren’t even happening yet. They’re living out there in some other places. It’s like a fantasy or a fictional challenge or something that’s out there that they’re wrestling with in their mind. What’s challenging right now is, we really have an enemy. We’re living in reality. The threat is not just real, it’s imminent. That’s the challenge here. So if we don’t talk about these issues, people cocoon. They press in and they isolate. As a parent, it’s like letting your son or daughter go up into their room and lock the door. Who’s going to talk to them? Who has the conversation? Do we just let that happen? We can’t let that kind of thing happen.

I was talking the other day on the Todd Starnes program about kids during these times. I said, listen, think of kids and think of us as big kids as adults going through crisis and trauma in our life. That’s certainly what we’re going through right now. This is very traumatic. When you have trauma, you lose your sense of safety. Now, what’s the antidote to trauma? Relationship. So, we’re locked down, we can’t do relationships a lot. That’s why everyone’s starting to talk about how to do relationships at home with your family, and by the way, at a distance through social media more. We’ve got to get the relationship piece going. What do you do with a kid, for example, struggling? Focus on togetherness. Don’t let them isolate. If you think by not talking about what’s going on to your kids is going to protect them, or you think they’re immune to the problems that you’re afraid of; you’re completely out of touch with your kids. They’re talking to each other, they’re up on social media, they’re overdosing, and it’s consuming them like it’s consuming you. Maybe at a different level, meaning how they perceive the potential outcomes more. But at the same time, there’s a fear piece there. Togetherness is really important.

The second piece is learned proximity—the beauty of touch. Some people, their love language is touch. Think of a baseball coach just for a moment. You got a guy on the mound, he’s out of control, he can’t throw a strike or he’s getting pounded. Walk out to the mound, the coach who has dialed in or a tune to a pitcher puts his hand on his shoulder. Why does he do that? To calm him and look him straight in the eyes and say, “Hey, listen, we’ve been here before.” And what you do is you talk him down, and you get him back in command. It’s the same thing I’m thinking about with our kids and about each and every one of us.


Just being at the game is significant. Think about that. They look in the stands for who? Being emotionally present right now, not just physically present, but being emotionally present, think of this word for a second, add this to your library if you don’t have it; being attuned to your son or daughter. They’re different. We know that. What Zach needs from his dad and what Megan needs from her dad are very different. That means being attuned, and I can only get attuned by what? Spending time with them. We recommend that parents–it’s a pretty exciting piece that we’ve learned through mental health care–give 20 minutes a day of command free special time with your son or daughter. Just hanging out with them for 20 minutes a day in their world. Command free meaning, I can’t say “Hey, Zack, let’s go out and play a game of catch.” I just gave him an indirect command. No, no. Spend 20 minutes a day in Zach’s life doing whatever Zach wants to do. When you start doing that, the gifts that come back are unbelievable. We’re learning now that the power of presence, the power presence like that can actually help a child and parent work through defiance, through challenging other issues in his or her life.

Mom and dads may say, “Well, hey, we spent…” No, not spend time, be attuned to your son or daughter for 20 minutes a day. It’s radical. That’s what I was talking about with spending time together, learn the therapeutic power of touch, then learn to talk. Have communication together. It’s interesting when you begin hanging out with your kids, you know what starts happening? You send a message that they’re important to you. You send another message too, you’re looking for interaction and dialogue as a part of your presence. You start learning how to communicate verbally and non-verbally. You begin to learn what’s important to your son or daughter, what motivates them, you begin to have influence. That’s why all the research about eating dinner together becomes so significant in primary again, in our modern-day world. People are learning that eating dinner together is incredibly significant for developing healthy kids. It’s not the food. And this is what I’m trying to say in this mental health chaos that’s going on right now. The church and the small groups being connected in. It’s so significant spending time in God’s word.

When you can practice the presence and power of God in your everyday life, it becomes what? Life-changing. I’m talking about parenting, and then I’m talking about everyday life. You’ll see the parallels and the connections. I often share that dealing with this life that’s out of control needs to focus on truth. People who are suicidal have lost their sense of hope because they’ve lost what’s happening in their mind. Paul in Philippians 4:8 said, “Whatsoever things are lovely, pure, of good report and more” Learn to what? Think on those things. It’s hard to say “Do thought-stopping” when everything’s coming against you. Often, by the way, it’s in a reality-based world that’s threatening. But I’ve got to replace that. I’ve got to do a thought stop. And then I’ve got to do a “thought-insertion.” I’ve got to step into that moment and bring truth and light to the darkness. If I can’t get it done, I need to bring someone into my life to help me go there. God help us to go there. But it’s hard again, to not be anxious when the bills are going unpaid, when you’ve lost your job. It’s like a tsunami is hitting us. But yes, we’ve got to go there. Elohim is our refuge and our strength. He’s a present help during times of trouble. Therefore, we won’t fear. He’s in the midst of it.


The church is the body, it’s not the building. We’ve got to remind ourselves that even when we feel alone, we always have an audience of one. God, by the way, has no greater plan than to use people like you and me to be the conduit through which he channels his message of hope to others. Listen to second Corinthians Chapter One, verses three and four. “He’s the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort who comforts us so that we, in turn, can comfort others with the comfort we ourselves are comforted by God.” When you give of yourself, when you step into the life of another person. I have five sisters. They do a lot more counseling than I do. Often over a cup of coffee, maybe not right now, but they do it maybe over a phone call, a text message and email, a smiley face, a FaceTime call, a verse shared on social. Just think about this. When we step into the life of another person. This is important. It’s inherently therapeutic. We have value, we have a place. When you feel like you’ve lost your face or your place in this world, remember that God, first of all, has not abandoned you.

By the way, it’s like the old quote from Evie Hill. Evie, he used to say this, when God blesses you and when God ministers to you. He rarely has you in mind. He wants to work through you to touch people. Like you said, I’m going to pick up the phone and call my son. I’m going to call my daughter and I’m gonna hang out for 20 minutes. Think about what it would do if we would hang out with the Lord for 20 minutes, and hear from him, receive from him; practice his presence and his power like never before, and ask him to work through, well, work in me and through me, to help you become more like Christ. To help you understand that God has not left you, that God has not abandoned you or us, that he’s in the midst of. The church has got to be that place, meaning the body of Christ. We’re praying to you all that we have a little project we’re working on right now that I just can’t stop talking about. It’s about empowering the body to do the work of the ministry, to step into the mental health insanity that’s going on right now. We’re asking God to raise up churches and we’re actually now designating as mental health coaches—mental health coach first responders in the church. It’s our Dare to Care Program.


God brought to us a very special initiative. We’re calling it the Dare to Care Global Initiative. It really is about empowering the church. Here’s the project. We have been blessed through some friends to go out and engage 750 churches and train 7,500 mental health coach first responders. The goal again is to train that first line of defense in every community, via the church. The church should be the place where people come for help and hope. In other words, reaching out to people who are anchored in God’s word, and who, by the way, are attuned to the clinical challenges, the financial stresses or the personal stress and anxiety that’s going on, or the depression and so much more, be attuned to that. We put together a 40-hour training of 3 courses.It’s video training featuring some of the very best mental health ministry experts in the world. And what we’re doing in this project is we’re taking these three courses on demand 24/7, 365 to 750 churches. We’re asking God to give us a point person in each church who would help steward, this trust, this gift. By the way, it’s a gift. In other words, it’s a gift to the 750 churches and to train up to 10 or so church members or first responders, mental health coach first responders in each church.

I talked to Jentezen Franklin last night, churches like Free Chapel, Prestonwood Baptist Church out of Dallas, the great church down there. These are our anchor churches who are on board with us. We’re starting training May 1st, and our goal again is to train 7,500 mental health coach first responders. Here’s what happens, when they finish this program, they actually qualify to become a certified mental health coach first responder. This evidence-based, biblically-based program is being led by a friend of mine named Dr. Matt Stanford out of Houston, Texas. He has launched an initiative in the city of Houston. It’s massive. We put it on video to take it around the country, and eventually around the world. But here’s the deal. When people go through this, they become certified and they become that frontline of defense in their local church.

It’s not to replace therapy. It’s to deal with the incredible demand that is surging for mental health services and the lack of providers. So these people in certain states actually qualify to get third party reimbursement for Medicaid, Medicare Services, if you can believe that. God is using this. This is the first ever evidence-based peer counseling mental health coach program in the country. It’s tuition-free. For those first 7,500 students, those first 750 churches–it’s a tuition-free program. Our goal is to get the 750 churches locked in first, and then we’re asking them to shepherd and steward the training of these students in their church community.


Go to, There’s a form there to fill out and say “Yes, we’d like our congregation to be considered as one of the first 750 charter churches, this tuition-free program to train up mental health coach first responders in our local church community.”
Pray with us that God would use this in a special way. We believe this, that pastors, they know people who have the natural gifts. People often come to them asking for help or prayer and more. They want to step into these moments of helping encourage people. Maybe it’s over a cup of coffee, whatever it is. This is what we want to do. We want to train them in a meaningful evidence-based, biblically-based program. It’s robust and exciting.


God, we are so in need of you. On our own God, we can do nothing. God, you know my heart. I cry out and ask God to lead us. We pray for protection and provision. Lord, I pray for power, spiritual power as never before. God in this hour, would you encourage all those who are listening, remind us all of your presence and your power. And God I know you’ve called us all to soul care, to reach out. God, give us the strength to do that. God, do a work, do it in such a way that only you can get the glory and credit for it all. And God, we’re so grateful that you’d love us. We’re so grateful for your grace, your mercy, your tenderness, like a loving Father toward us. And God, help us to receive that. Help us to know what it means to feel that embrace from you, especially Lord in this hour. I pray right now, for all of our families. I pray right now for our churches. I pray right now for our president, the administration and all those who are leading in authority, God be with them. Give them wisdom, and grace and direction in this hour. God help us. We claim you that you are our refuge and our strength. Help us to not fear and to learn to be still and know that you are in the midst of it all. I pray that in the strong and matchless name of our Savior, Jesus. Amen.