Why Every Pastor Should Read about Melissa’s Suicide

UPDATE: Listen to the podcast episode about this post.

The words seem cliché in some ways: “It’s a parent’s greatest fear.” But they are not cliché. They are real. And haunting.

Frank and Dayle Page had the “perfect” family. Or so it seemed to many of us on the outside looking in. Frank had pastored a megachurch. He had been elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. Even today he serves as president and chief executive officer of the administrative offices of the denomination. And he has three lovely daughters.

But one of those daughters, Melissa, was troubled most of her life. She was spunky and compassionate at the same time, but her life was dominated by problems and depression.

Melissa took her own life. As a young adult lady, Melissa committed suicide.

A Courageous Story

melissaFrank Page decided to write a book about Melissa. He took the courageous path. There are no false platitudes in this book. No syrupy cover-up for the distinguished Page family. No holding back. The book delivers one hard punch after another. It details the day Melissa took her life. And Frank writes again and again about Melissa’s last words on that fateful day: “Daddy, I love you.”

He writes it because he wants to remember her love for him. He writes it as if he can grab the words and snatch Melissa back to life. He writes it with both gratitude and deep pain.

Frank told me that he wrote this book out of selfishness; he said he wrote it for his own therapeutic needs.

I don’t buy it.

Certainly there was a therapeutic value for him to write the book, but there is no hint of selfishness. It took deep courage to write this book.

Taking Down the Façade

Many of us in vocational ministry want to try to fool our churches and the world. We want to act like our home has no problems. We never fight with our spouses. Our children are the embodiment of angelic beings. We are never tempted. We have no sin issues in our lives.

And we certainly don’t have family members who are depressed, and perhaps, suicidal.

Frank Page takes down the façade. He lets us see a real family with real problems, with real struggles, and real hurts. It’s a family not that much different than all of ours. It’s a Christian family in a fallen world.

Why You Should Read This Book

I wish every Christian leader in America would read this book. Frankly, I wish every Christian would read this book. It is one of the most powerful books I have ever read. I read the entire 200 pages in one sitting. I could not stop. I did take occasional breaks to wipe tears from my eyes. And I did take a few other breaks to pray. But I couldn’t put the book down.

You need to read this book. You really do.

You need to hear the story behind suicide. We recently were shocked and saddened to hear about Rick Warren’s son’s suicidal death. We were reminded again that depression and suicide could come to any family. Your family. My family.

You need to understand some of the issues behind depression and suicide so you can more effectively minister to others. Indeed, you may find yourself using the book to minister to your own family.

I also pray that this book will get into the hands of thousands of persons who are contemplating suicide. Frank writes a series of letters to those who are struggling to the point where they may take their own lives.

You should also read this book to see how a Christian leader courageously allows others to see the real world of a messy family. We all, to some degree, have messy families. But we are often too prideful to admit it.

Be a Part of a Movement

On Friday, May 31, 2013, we will publish the podcast interview I recorded with Frank Page on this blog. Please take less than 30 minutes to listen. You really do need to do so for your own ministry and, perhaps, for your own family.

Then get the book. It’s called Melissa: A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide. Read it for your ministry. Read it for your family. Read it for yourself.

Perhaps a movement will grow from this book. Perhaps lives will be saved because we have a greater awareness and sensitivity to this darkness. Perhaps we will learn to love more deeply. Perhaps we will become more compassionate people.

On one weary occasion, Frank Page was asked how many children he had. Because he was so tired of explaining where the third child was, he conveniently omitted Melissa.

As soon as he did, he had deep grief and remorse. He had denied his firstborn, his third daughter. He vowed never to leave out Melissa again. Yes, she had committed suicide, but she was a believer. Frank has no doubt where she is today. He will never deny her existence again.

Melissa lives for us too. Her story, told by her father, is one of the most incredible tomes I’ve ever read.

Thank you, Frank. Thank you Frank and Dayle Page. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your love of your family. And thank you for giving life to Melissa.

May her story give life to many more.


  1. Linda Morrow says

    My husband is pastor of a small Baptist Church and we know firsthand the devastation of suicide. With no warning, our 13 yr old grandson, JJ, took his life back in 2010. Every time I hear of someone taking their life, my heart breaks for them and their families.
    We are actively involved with American Foundation for Suicide Prevention with our daughter to support anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide.
    There must have been something going on with JJ that none of us knew. We do know that God has been faithful to be there with us.
    I will say this that I read somewhere that the phrase “committed suicide” makes it sound like a crime was committed so I refrain from saying that. No matter what people say about how their loved one died, it’s something that will be with us for the rest of our life.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Linda –

      My heart breaks for you, your daughter, and the entire family. Thank you for taking time to comment. And thank you for being proactive in using your tragedy to help others.

      • Linda Morrow says

        Thank you, Dr. Rainer! Through this tragedy, we have been able to be a positive light for people to see that God is with us.

    • Lee Haley says

      Thom I also suggest every pastor read WHEN HEAVEN IS SILENT by Ron Dunn. Ron lost his son to suicide also. His book does the most important thing- it discusses the question WHY? and then tell us how to respond to unexplainable events in life.

      Ron was a mentor to me. I saw him walk the dark path after his son’s death.

  2. Phillip D. Wilson says

    This sounds like a must read. Suicide is all too real among Christians and so many times, ideas about suicide and the eternal destiny of those that commit suicide cloud the issue. Folks that should be supportive often say thoughtless and misinformed things and family members that should be dealing with grief and loss find themselves defending the lost loved one as well as battling anger, guilt and shame.

    I for one believe that if God’s grace can pull me from by daily failures into the eternal redemption of glory, that there is hope for those who have stumbled into the dark place where options seem so limited that death seems like the only release.

  3. Jeff Sears says

    A wise man told me that Melissa didn’t take her own life, she was murdered. Satan told her a lie long enough that it killed her. This has totally transformed my understanding of suicide.

    • Linda Morrow says

      Jeff, I hadn’t thought of it in that view. Shared your comment with my husband and he agreed that Satan is the murderer.
      When JJ left us, I struggled with him dying alone but God showed us through a close friend that he wasn’t alone that God was there with him.

    • Gerald Kelly says

      Thanks goes to several of you, Dr. Page who shares his story, You Jeff on your comment. You are so right on this. And Dr. Rainer for is comments. Certainly our heart and prayers goes out to Dr. & Mrs. Page for their extreme loss. I am going to order several copies of this book.
      Gerald Kelly, Volunteer Community Prayer Coordinator
      at Oklahoma Baptist University.

  4. Steve Pryor says

    Great job, as always. Depression is a medical condition that need treatment. Love your articles.

  5. James Kerr says

    Dr. Rainer,
    The book sounds great. I will definitely pick it up. As a NAMB Chaplain in the Army Reserves, I have to deal with suicide far too often. I will listen in on the 31st. Is there any possibility to have Dr. Page or someone from the SBC give more training on suicide and the remorse counseling afterwards ? I graduated from SBTS and as a NAMB Chaplain one of my greatest needs is in dealing with some of these situations.

    • Thom Rainer says

      James –

      This blog has a nice size viewership. Let’s put your request out there to see what kind of responses you might get.

  6. Chuck Morton says

    Thanks for your endorsement of Frank’s recounting of Melissa’s story. I was so glad to see that you included an appeal for all to read this book – especially those contemplating suicide. I, like you, found the story so compelling it was hard to set aside. I knew Melissa well and saw the good and the not so good. But I saw her heart on many occasions. And just like Frank points out in his book, Melissa had a heart of gold for the downtrodden.

    I think many who face suicide think they are alone in this world. Frank’s poignant approach to his story helps us to understand we may feel alone, but we are not. We have a loving God who hurts along with us and we have families who try desperately to understand, but for whatever reason cannot. Frank’s book helped me to better understand this increasingly desperate problem affecting both those who face the taking of their own lives and the loved ones they leave behind. Thanks Frank for being so honest to help this troubled world. But you know…you’ve always been that way.

    Thanks Thom for pointing out the good reasons everyone should read this book.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Chuck –

      Thanks so much for that personal and inside view. I can tell you truly love the Pages, including Melissa.

  7. says

    This issue of suicide is, unfortunately, too prevalent in our world today. I’ve got to be honest. This sounds like a tough read. For that reason, I will need to read it. Thanks for the heads up.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Thanks Steve. It is a tough read in some respects. But it’s one of the most powerful reads as well.

  8. James Welch says

    Looking forward to getting and reading this book. I am glad that Dr. Page was able to be frank about this serious issue.
    Thom, does Dr. Page give good and godly advice for helping those who are depressed? I am afraid that as believers we have been afraid to face the realities of depression.
    Thanks for this timely encouragement.

  9. Sherri Royer says

    Thank you so much for sharing. I am a single mom & have a 20 year old daughter who struggles with depression. We are in counseling now. Would appreciate prayers. It’s an uphill battle, but God will see us through.

  10. Linda Aspinall says

    I have been a sufferer of Depression & Anxiety for many years. I’m part of a group here in South Africa (South African Depression Anxiety Group) who hold meetings either in our homes, church halls or some hold meetings in hospitals, I recently had one of my members attempt suicide, thank God I was able to get to her in time. Can you tell me if this book is or will be available here? Blessings to all who help others in this debilitating illness. Linda

  11. Doc Washburn says

    I look forward to reading this book. I don’t know if this will help anyone. But I thought I should share it. When our six children were aged 3-10, their Mom divorced me and gave me custody. My eldest was especially devastated. She would have panic attacks as if she was paralyzed and couldn’t speak. By God’s grace, I came across an article that gave us an understanding of the Lord still being in our lives even though the rug had been pulled completely out from under us. When she read it, she gradually started recovering. I hope that this will help someone:
    God bless you,
    Doc Washburn

  12. Jim Walterhouse says

    Thank you for recommending this book. Too often Christians deny the reality of suicide or suicidal feelings. It is not always a spiritual issue that more prayer or Bible reading can “fix” as so many would like to believe. Sometimes professional counseling and medication are necessary.

    • carrie says

      Amen. I had post partum depression. I was suicidal. I was tired of hearing I needed to pray more, read my Bible more, have more faith, count my blessings, etc. I was doing all those things. Then I finally went to my doctor and got the proper medications. A little over a year on the meds was all it took for me. By God’s grace, I have been free of the depression for more than 2 years. Depression is a disease. Yes, it can sometimes be a spiritual problem, but sometimes it is medical and sadly, Christians aren’t always encouraged to get the help they need.

  13. Anonymous says

    One weekend ten years ago, I had decided to take my life. Two things stopped me: 1) I didn’t want my cat to suffer until my body was found, and 2) I didn’t want to put my parents through that ordeal. By the end of the weekend, God gave me the barest glimmer that there might be hope for me, and I held on to that.

    Ten years later, my level of depression is even deeper, and the thought crosses my mind almost daily. Yet I know that is a lie and has a much to do with satan as it does with whether I’ve eaten okay in the past couple of days (or sometimes even at all). I don’t see much hope for me for the future, but I’ll never know if there is or not if I’m not around to experience it.

    One day I hope to work again and be able to afford to get some help.

  14. Bob and Suzanne Whitley says

    We lost our 35 year old daughter to suicide April 23, 2012. I know she is with our Lord, but our heartbreak will never leave! We just had no idea that she would ever think about that. She left a precious husband and a little 6 yr old son she loved dearly! I trust God everyday to make it through the day……BROKENNESS IS A HARD ROAD TO WALK.

    • Thom Rainer says

      The pain that you bear is beyond my comprehension. All I know to do is to pray for God’s sustaining grace.

    • Linda Morrow says

      Bob and Suzanne,
      Our family knows that road so well. My heart goes out to you and your family. I hope you and your family have sought counseling, especially your son-in-law. Even though your family is guiltless, Satan will try to tell you otherwise.
      I am a member of Compassionate Friends, which is a non-profit group that is for families who have lost a child or grandchild. I have met some wonderful people who have helped me on this road. May God continue to give you peace and comfort.

  15. Sheri Menegio says

    I am a graduate of SEBTS. I had a wonderful childhood and life until I was 32. Depression hit. I tried to kill myself twice within 2 years. That was a while ago, but lately the thoughts have come back. If I try to talk to anyone at my church they let me know that they don’t won’t to hear it. TMI.m There is so little tying me to this world. I guarantee if I try again, I won’t fail.

    • Linda Morrow says

      Sheri, PLEASE DON’T GO THERE!!! please give me your e-mail or I can give you my daughter’s phone #. She would be glad to talk to you! I am sorry your church isn’t being there for you! I would be glad to talk to you too!!!!
      I wish I could reach through this computer and let you know how much you are loved!!!!

    • michelle says

      Sheri, suicide is NOT the answer to your problems. You definitely need to keep trying to reach out for a listening ear. I will be praying for you. I lost my father to suicide and it leaves behind many many upset people who are scarred for life. It has caused me great pain and anger over the years. If not only for you, don’t do it to your family. God loves you and you taking your life is not His plan. He will rescue you from this pit. Don’t let Satan win the battle. Just keep remembering that. Open your Bible and start reading it….especially Psalms. It will bring you comfort.

  16. Michelle joiner says

    Dr. Page was the pastor at my church Taylors First Baptist when my Dad took his life Jan 25th 2003. He was one of the first on the phone calling me to offer prayer and words of hope. I will never forget it. Since then, I lost my husband of 24 years to adultery and felt taking my life was the easy way out. God rescued me from a very determined decision I had for myself and I am forever grateful he kept me here for my 2 children. Life is hard and no one will get through life without trials. God is our one and only salvation and answer to all problems. Thank you to Dr. and Mrs. Page for sharing your story. I can’t wait to read it!

  17. Rodney Wilson says

    Sheri, thank-you for posting such personal thoughts on this blog site. That must have been difficult to do. Without getting “clinical”, I see some very positive things in what you briefly shared.

    First, you indicated that you have tried to talk to some people at your church. It is sad to hear how they have responded but YOU made the effort to talk about it, and that is positive. Please continue your search for help. It may be closer than you think. For example, Linda had offered help. Sometimes an outside perspective can help you see your significance that can’t be seen alone.

    Second, Dr. Rainer has a huge readership with his blog. Your post assures that many will be lifting you up to the Father for you to get help – either directly from Him or through another source. Please do not underestimate the power of those prayers.

    I am proud of you for making your personal situation public. Know that my prayers for you will continue, and please pardon the long lecture!

  18. says

    Thanks for the blog doc. I am going to get the book to read with a friend that i am trying to help. I just preached a series on depression and was amazed by the number of people that struggle with it. I know for me personally it was one of the hardest periods in my life. Now i am able to use what i learned to help others. Please pray for my friend Ed.
    Thanks again, Greg

  19. John Tharpe says

    I applaud Pastor Page for speaking directly to the “humanness” of Christians, and for the courage of displaying the tragedy his family has experienced, to speak directly to the church. Far too long I have felt that we (Christians) do more of an injustice to ourselves, the church, and non-believers, by covering up our humanness (sins.) Sadly, some have left churches, and even been turned away, because of the putting on of airs. We, as Christians, should be committed to allowing our sin to make us more committed to God, who helps us overcome, and forgives us by the blood He has shed for us. And our churches should be places where we can find refuge, and encouragement, when we are at our absolute lowest. I am looking forward to reading Mr. and Mrs. Page’s ode to “Melissa.” Many blessings!

  20. says

    Thank you for sharing this book. I’m going to add it to my reading list. I am a pastor’s wife who battled depression for over 10 years. It hit very hard when our first child was born. My husband and I suffered in silence for over 6 years, until I finally began to see a Christian counselor. We were embarrassed and didn’t want to tell anyone, because, well, Christians don’t have these problems, especially pastors and their families. The counselor I saw spoke God’s love, grace, and mercy into my life, and now I know my Heavenly Father loves me and saves me no matter what I’m struggling with. And He wants to help me through the depression. This such an important issue to talk about in the Church. My husband asked me to give my testimony in front of our church last year, and I was amazed at how many people came up to me to let me know they’ve felt the same way. I believe God is using my struggles to help others know that they can have victory. Thank you again.

  21. says

    Thank you for posting and tweeting about this book. My father was a Southern Baptist pastor in upstate South Carolina who committed suicide in Sept. 2012. I’ve been writing several pieces about his death that I plan to publish around Father’s Day.

    I look forward to reading this book, and I hope my father’s death can add greater urgency for suicide awareness and pastoral care.


    Craig Sanders
    Louisville, Ky.

  22. Tammy says

    I completely agree that it is murder. I also want to comment that all too often people quote “suicide is the most selfish thing a person can do”. This is false. It is a selfish quote in and of itself! It is selfish to throw out quotes and not offer compassion and help. The most painful and selfish thing a person can do is leave this earth without making known to your loved ones where you stand with Jesus!

    • Amy says

      Thank you for your response to the selfish aspect. I too, have attempted in the past, and instead of my family reaching in to protect me and offer me help, I was informed that what I did was the most slefish thing I could do, and what whould happen if the church would happen to find out. The perfect family, was not so perfect. So, I was punished. I was also informed if I pulled another stunt like this on my family then I am on my own. So the sad thing is Just this past Feb, my almost 25 yr old cousin commited suicide. My entire extended family just could not believe how selfish he was and how he could do that to us…But I turned the question around…Are we not selfish for not being there for him? One rarely ends his life without any signs before hand…It is our choice as to wether we chose to embrace those signs and offer help or ignore it.

  23. Cecil says

    Depression is a medical condition that may involve physical, mental, emotional, traumatic, circumstantial or spiritual issues. Depression can lead to loss of life if these evaluations are not seen first by a medical doctor, neurologist or psychiatrist who can prescribe appropriate tests and treatment. After the initial treatment is initiated, these other important issues can be appropriately addressed. If anyone has thoughts of submitting to their suicidal thoughts, please see a medical professional or go to a hospital emergency room before giving in to these thoughts. The Bible informs us Jesus used the spit and the laying on of hands to heal the blind man of Bethsaida(Mark 8:23) and another time mentioned in John 9:6. The Apostle Paul was accompanied by Luke who was a physician who helped him along with writing with the Holy Spirit the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. Also, Jesus taught the Good Samaritan poured oil and wine on the wounds of robbed and beaten man. The medical resources were used and encouraged in the Old Testament (Elijah the Prophet for example) and the New Testament. My prayers go out to all. Thanks for the above article and comments about a very serious condition.

  24. Bledi says

    Last year, I did a training on Suicide Prevention called ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) which is organized by

    I think you would find it helpful. I am sharing this blog with my instructors of the course.

    Bledi (Tirana, Albania)

  25. says

    Thank you for your article, I plan to get the book. We lost our 20 year old son to suicide 2 1/2 years ago. I was in full time Christian work for 20 years and you are absolutely correct about the need for pastors to read this book. Our son did not share his struggles and we did not see the subtle symptoms. I believe this is due in part to the attitude in churches toward mental health. We believe parents need to be educated about this problem and have started a website called I hope you will visit the site and share it with others. I am speaking in a church where I used to serve on Sept 8 about this issue and was doing research on Pastor Page’s story when I found your article.

    We have a video on our website from another presentation we have done telling our story, I hope you will get a change to look at it. We have also started writing a book. My wife nearly died when our son was born as a result of a very rare disorder, she went through multiple surgeries and time at U of Michigan hospital. That is part of the book along with raising Nathan per the standard church agenda of homeschooling, youth group etc., while due to lack of information missing his symptoms of depression. The book is called, When Love is Not Enough. I know this a long shot, but I thought maybe you could provide us some advice or help in getting this story out. My message next Sunday revolves around the idea that the Bible believing church criticizes those who don’t believe in medical treatment while letting our own suffer and sometimes die of untreated mental disorders.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Trent –

      I hurt for you. This blog has over 2 million viewers, so I know your comment will be read by many to get the word out. I would also encourage you to contact Frank Page, the author of the book. His address is at

      Blessings friend.

  26. Pastors Wife says

    My husband and I have been in ministry for 18 years. We went into church planting seven years ago. Long story short, we don’t get paid. We work our butts off. We both work full time jobs as well. All of this while caring for our 22 year daughter with cystic fibrosis. We have nearly spent all of our retirement and savings for medical debt. We are have been married for 28 years. We have a son that is married and has 2 children. My grand children are my world. In saying all this, I am so tired of being hurt time and time again. I am so tired of being there for people at every beckon call and they are never there for us when our daughter is in the hospital 3 hours away from home or at home on IV drugs for weeks at a time. When someone can’t pay a bill the church always comes through for them. We are drowning in debt but does anyone care? No. We are always alone. I am so depressed that I can’t even cry. I have considered many times just killing myself and being done with the pain. I just don’t know how much longer I can take it. I am almost 46 and I have fibromyalgia and I will never be able to retire. Sometimes death looks like the only option.

    • Carrie says

      Please hang in there. Your husband, kids, grandkids, church family and friends need you. Reach out to someone. Does your husband know you feel this way? I know from going through depression myself that reading the Bible and counting your blessings is not always enough to dog out of depression. You may need medication or at least counselling. Is there a church nearby that offers counselling? Pastor Craig Edwards from My Airy, NC wrote a booklet about depression (he suffers from depression). I don’t have the address, but Google him. He will send you the book for FREE! My email is if you want to get in touch with me. Hugs and prayers.

      • steve pryor says

        Pastor’s wife,
        The Lord loves you; you are His child. Your grandkids love you. They need you. My mother tried to take her life several years ago. Please, don’t send your family through that. I have no deep, theological comments, other than you are loved. Please, find a counselor who is trained to help people in your situation.

        I will be praying for you,
        My email address is Feel free to contact me.

  27. Chas Jones says

    I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior in 1974 when I was 19. I was strong emotionally, a “shoulder to cry upon,” my whole life. However, 1n 1996 I suffered severe depression and anxiety. I considered suicide and began researching the least painful and most certain method. I also sought treatment. I was diagnosed with both physiological and psychological conditions. One stemming from an imbalance in my brain chemistry, the other due to “normal” stresses and pressures of life. I had never believed in psychiatry nor in depression … until I went through what I experienced. Thankfully, through it all I continued speaking to God and He to me. No, I did not physically hear God’s voice, but His Indwelling Holy Spirit and His Word spoke to me continuously. For everyone considering taking your life, please never forget that God personally knit you together in your mother’s womb. Your life is His Gift. He will give you the strength to endure and to overcome if you will seek it and Him. For those who have lost a loved one to suicide, please know that God may use everyone and everything to advance His Perfect Plan. Our lives on earth have but one purpose; our redemption and salvation by Grace and through Faith in Jesus Christ.

    I hope and pray that my experience and words may help at least one person to draw close to God. I know He has often carried me through life’s most difficult challenges.

  28. says

    I have read Melissa and have spoken with Dr. Page to thank him for his courage. I write now because it happened yet again last night at 11:59. I was the first one informed of the suicide in a local church (the second for this church in 14 months). The mother was the one who told me. I called her pastor this morning at 7:30. He had not heard. This happens all too frequently. Perhaps it is because my passion and mission is suicide intervention and training and people feel a need to let me know. Yet the truth is that many faithful church members move on to other churches or stop going completely after a loss by suicide. For some it may be because of their anger at God, but for many that I hear from it is because of the perceived response of the faith community. Suicide is a taboo word in the pulpit and in the faith community as a whole. Seminaries for the most do not require any formal training in suicide intervention. Pastors are charged with speaking life to the faithful, but don’t know how to deal with those who want to die. More than once have I been called to large churches because as the staff says, “We don’t know how to handle this?” Yet little is done within the faith community to stem the tide. We leave it to the mental health community or the MD. It is one of the reasons I stepped down as a pastor five years ago and returned to the military where I have worked with more than 22,000 soldiers on matters of personal resilience to restore hope in the past four years. Yet there is a longing within me to strengthen the civilian community. I guess it is part of my creed as a soldier, “to serve the people of the United States of America.” To those within the faith community who want to make a difference and are not afraid to ask courageous questions I would encourage you to contact me. Through the “I WILL INTERVENE CHALLENGE” we are training schools and community groups throughout the US just as we do soldiers. But where is the church in all this? For the most part it is AWOL. It is not my intention to offend pastors, nor do I stand in judgment of the faith community, but I do sense that it is time for the church to wake up on this matter of suicide. We need to take be proactive agents of hope rather than reactive agents to pain and despair. There is a better way! Grace and Peace, Chaplain Kenneth Koon, Executive Director Armed Forces Mission and the Master Resilience Institute. ~ Ezekiel 3:17

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