On April 3, 1976 I became a Christian as the result of hearing the Gospel preached after music was shared by Eric Nelson and Gentle Faith. The lead singer for Gentle Faith was Darrell Mansfield. I recall Darrell sharing about how he had attempted suicide five years earlier.
In the last several years, there was a lot of talk that Darrell was in jail. Nobody I knew seemed to know what had exactly happened. Following is an interview with Darrell, as he was interviewed by Dan Wooding, founder of Assist Ministries. The interview is probably a few years old but as you read it you will see how mental illness so greatly impacted Darrell through the years. He is now doing concerts and touring and if I am able, I will seek to get in touch with him for an update since this interview was done. Pray for Darrell. Being a Christian musician gives him a unique platform to share about the Christian and mental illness. He has been through much, but God has sustained him.
Check out Darrell’s web site here.
Also take a look at the ministry founded by Dan wooding. They are doing much work in the name of the Lord.
By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA (ANS) — Christian blues singer, Darrell Mansfield, is emerging from a nightmare that saw him try to commit suicide on several occasions and spend a two-year spell in the Atascadero State Hospital in central California.
In an extraordinary interview, Darrell issued a message to Christians in which he said, Don’t be ashamed if you have a mental illness. You are not a second rate soldier for Christ. It’s an illness; it’s a disease, just like diabetes, and it needs to be treated. People need to know that when they get to a state of depression like that, there is help. I didn’t know that at the time. (Pictured: Darrell Mansfield in concert).
Your illness is not a lack of faith or spirituality or commitment. It’s a chemical, medical problem and I think that society, the church especially, has got their head buried in the sand.
There were too many pastors who came to see patients when I was at Atascadero State Hospital and who said to them that they were depressed because they were not praying or trusting God enough. That is just total ignorance. When you are chemically imbalanced, you need to get medication and therapy to get back on track. We know all about the physical and spiritual things, but we don’t seem to know much about the mental things.
Mansfield revealed that he comes from a family with many mental health problems and that his first suicide attempt took place in 1971 when he was 21 years old. I went to a Catholic church, St. Mary’s Church in Fullerton, California and took a butchers knife. I went up to the altar, knelt and took off my jacket and slit my wrists. I cut my right wrist right to the bone.
Fortunately, he was found by a priest and rushed to the hospital, where prompt action by the medical staff saved his life. He eventually gave his life to Christ and married Cheryl, and they have seven children.
In 1974, he joined the band Gentle Faith as lead vocalist and two years later they released their first album, Gentle Faith. In 1977 he formed the Darrell Mansfield Band which released four albums: Higher Power, Get Ready, Darrell Mansfield Band Live, and Vision. That was only the beginning. Over the years Darrell has performed on so many projects that he himself finds it hard to count them all. (Pictured: Darrell with his harmonica).
He has also recorded over 30 albums and done lives shows and recordings with artists and bands like Billy Idol, Bon Jovi, Lover Boy and the late Joe Turner.
But as his popularity grew, he found himself in a Catch 22 situation. I am one of these guys who could never say no to a ministry opportunity, he said. I got so busy for God and having seven children to support didn’t help, because you have the responsibility of those kids and you want to be with them too. And if you are not, you feel guilty.
So it was really bad because I was always gone on the road and when I was home I was on the phone talking to people about the next tour or the next gig and getting ready for the next outreach. It was all legitimate, but being independent as I was on staff somewhere or could not afford to take a vacation. I was on the staff of one church seven years, and during that time I never took a vacation. (Pictured: Time out).
I didn’t have any set fees or honorariums and so I could go anywhere. That’s the way I’ll always been. But now that I know, I have to pace myself. I have realized that I have the vulnerability of an illness that was in my family. I have to get proper sleep and rest, and take my time and be careful. I have to pace myself and stop being a Martha and be more like Mary who sat at Jesus. Feet.
DARK SECRET THAT NO ONE SPOKE ABOUT
Depression ran on my father’s side, which I didn’t know until I went into the hospital and got into the system. I had five cousins that suffered from depression and three were bi-polar. One of them, Dean, become so depressed that he shot himself and his brother attempted suicide twice. I also had two uncles, who I didn’t know, who spent time in a mental hospital and also a great uncle who died in a mental hospital. That was a dark family secret that no one spoke about.
Darrell’s troubles began to mount up and they came to a head when his young daughter accidentally spoiled boiling hot soup on his feet while he was sick in bed and he suffered second and third degree burns. He was in such pain that he went to see a local doctor who treated the wounds and then gave him pain killers and sleeping pills to cope with the situation.
It was while the doctor was examining him, that he found four cancerous growths on his body. They were surgically removed, and then followed a difficult tour back east when he missed flights because of the snow and, over five or six day period, had hardly any sleep. This was made worse because his sleeping pills ran out and he was suffering withdrawal symptoms.
When he go back, he went straight out to take part in a missions conference and said that part way through his message, he became so disorientated that he stopped speaking and walked off the platform. Staff at the church tried to help him, but he was now in serious mental trouble and feeling suicidal again.
It wasn’t long after this that result in the dramatic incident that ended in his second suicide attempt back in March 2000.
I was driving along on the way to my home in Cambria and I lost it, he said. I knew I couldn’t continue to do this. I knew I should be in bed and sleeping. So all of a sudden the thought came to me again that I should end it. I took my seat belt off and went off the road into a field. I put my foot right down and was going at about 80 miles and hour and I cleared the barbed wire fence. The car went over several times and I went through the roof. It is a convertible with the roof, but it was not down.
It was winter time and I landed in the field, and there was about a foot of water there. I landed face down in the water. An ambulance happened to be driving by and the driver saw the whole thing and stopped the ambulance and rushed to save my life. Ironically, I knew the guy because he lived at the gas station in Cambria, which is located 240 miles north of Los Angeles and 240 miles south of San Francisco on U.S. Highway 1.
So they took me to the hospital and they stitched my forehead where I had a bad laceration. I was then taken to the Intensive Care Unit. The reality of it really hit me when the nurse said, “This was an accident, wasn;t it?” I said, “No,” and she said “Oh, my God.”
They then transferred me to another unit and put me on a 24 hour suicide watch in front of a nursing station. They shot me full of morphine, which felt great. It took the pain away and I went to sleep. When I woke up, there was a psychiatrist there and he interviewed me. I was then taken to a mental health facility for a 72 hour observation. This was a lock down facility. I had never been in a mental ward before and there were people walking around talking to themselves. The doctor wanted to hold me for another 72 hours, but I insisted on leaving. He gave me several bottles of medication and I went home.
But soon the suicidal thoughts were coming back again, but I knew I didn’t want to go back to the mental hospital. I told Cheryl that I needed to go and see the doctor at a mental health hospital in San Lois Obispo because. I had taken the wrong dose of medication. She was driving and the closer to the doctors we got to the city, the more freaked out I got. I’m thinking that they were going to lock me up for ever. I am going out of my mind, and thinking suicidal thoughts. So I began to think that I would just open the door and roll out of the car and someone would run over me. Well that would be okay, if I had normal passenger seat belts, but the passenger seatbelt didn’t work.
So when we get into the car, Cheryl had to put her seatbelt around mine and lock it in on her side. I knew if I unlocked the seatbelt she would wonder what I was trying to do, but still I knew I didn’t want to see the doctor and I knew I was all done with this. I’m getting closer to this. Then all of a sudden, I saw this large truck coming the other way and I could see it about 100 yards away. I thought I would just time it, grab the steering wheel in our Mercedes wagon, maneuvering it so it would hit me right on my door and it will kill me right away, and Cheryl would be okay.
HEAD ON CRASH
I grabbed the steering wheel and I didn’t calculate how fast he was going. We ended up hitting his door instead of him hitting my door, it broke the driver’s arm, but the guy who was riding shotgun had no injuries at all. Cheryl’s seat went forward and she messed up her foot. The front of the car was totaled and the front windshield was shattered, but thank God nobody had been killed.
All of a sudden the police and the ambulance were there. We were taken to the emergency ward of the hospital and I was told my wife was going to be fine. So I ran out of the back of the hospital about two blocks to the 100 freeway right to the bridge and I’m looking at the traffic. I was going to jump off the bridge, and then I thought that if I did that, I could cause an accident and hurt more people. So I decided to hide in some bushes by the side of the freeway and thought I would just roll myself out in front of a semi and just be a speed bump.
I waited until it got dark and then I went to a phone booth by a little taco restaurant where I used to eat about a block away I called home and my son Ryan answered the phone and he said, “Dad, where are you? They are looking for you.” I told him, “I can’t tell you. I just called to see how you and Mum were and say goodbye.” He started crying and said, “Dad, don’t do anything. Tell me where you are?” I said, “I can’t do that.” He said, “Dad, let me pray with you.”
He started crying and I started crying. He talked to me until the sun came up and then I said that I had to get out of there. It was now daylight and I went back into the bushes. I went ahead and wrote a suicide note and then I realized that I couldn’t do this and so I decided to turn myself in. I walked to the police station, but first I decided to go to a restaurant and had something to eat and some coffee. Then I called Ryan back and told him that I was turning myself in. I then saw a sheriff’s truck and they saw me and arrested me.
They took me to the county jail where detectives interrogated me. They then put me in a rubber room which they call “The Hole”, for 72 hours. There was no chair and no pillow to lie on. They would feed me through a slot and I had to eat with my hands. I didn’t know at this time that Rob Glickman of Horizon Park Chapel, San Diego, CA, was looking for me. Rob drove all the way up. He had heard about the two crashes and ironically, he had seen me because he is a chaplain for the sheriff’s department. He came onto the grounds and saw me being walked over to the jail. He went to Mike MacIntosh and hired a lawyer, Praise the Lord, and then they took me to the hospital because they realized that I wasn’t a criminal. They realized that I had a chronic illness.
I was charged with attempted murder at first, but they dropped that right away. Then I was charged with assault with a deadly weapon. That was dropped as a plea for Not Guilty by reason of insanity.
Now Darrell out on a conditional release program. “I am living in an apartment in San Lois Obispo and their concern for me is that I don’t get burned out again,” he said. But I now know my warning signs and coping skills and I took a 12-week dual diagnosis class at the hospital. I am the only one in the program here who leaves the county and the state all of the time. There is tremendous support for me. They allow me to leave the country and the state all the time to minister, but monitor my progress on a weekly basis and I really appreciate their flexibility and tremendous support. My yearly review comes up soon.
At first I was diagnosed as bi-polar, but then they dropped it to just a depressive disorder. They thought I was bi polar at first because I am a candidate for it due to my family mental health history.
ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
Darrell is well on the road to recovery. “I am still doing concerts and preaching, but now I’m learning to say no and I am not overextending myself. Now when I do teach and preach, I preach mental health along with spiritual and physical health,” he said. “We are a three-fold being and if one gets imbalanced, it affects the other and we can’t be effective for Christ if we are not spiritually, physically and mentally sound. We need to know those things and keep those things, and be in tune. So I am just thankful and praise God.”
When I minister now, I get people who come up to me and hug me in tears who say, “Thank you for making me feel that I am not a second-rate citizen of heaven because I suffer from mental problems. You’ve encouraged me.” I’ve had people who have come up to me and told me that they are suicidal at that moment and said that they need prayer. I’ll pray with them and then I’ll tell them to go and see a doctor.
I then asked Darrell if he thought that mental illness the “dirty little secret of the church” because people are desperately afraid to be honest about it.
“Yes, I really do,” he said. “I would say to pastors that you need to wake up and realize that we are in a body of sin and death and depression is part of the curse. Mental illness is just like physical illness; it needs to be treated by a doctor. There are great doctors out there and there are good medications out there that don’t have a lot of horrible side effects. You also need fellowship in group therapy. It’s important. Shame on them if they think they can just pray it away.
Michael Ireland, chief correspondent of ASSIST News Service (ANS), concurs with Mansfield. Ireland was also diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, but is now considered to be ‘in remission.’
“In my experience, the Christian church is full of people with mental and emotional problems resulting from an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. It’s no different than having a physical illness such as diabetes, and has nothing to do with the quality of their spiritual life. Many of these people, among them true and faithful believers, are treated as social pariahs because they haven’t ‘got it all together’ like others — without the disorder — seem to have. These folks are often misunderstood and many times shunned because they are ‘different’ and do not readily fit in”
“Our Bible colleges and Seminaries need to train future pastors on how to recognize the causes behind these mental disorders — they are not always spiritual in nature, but most often have a biochemical component that can be helped with proper medication and counseling. Sufferers from emotional and mental disorders, which also occur among solid, Bible-believing Christians and other church-going people, need friendship, love, acceptance and understanding — just like ‘ordinary’ people. It is time the Church came clean and started treating the mentally ill within its walls with friendship and compassion, instead of rejecting them as misfits.
“There should be no shame in having a mental illness, because it is a ‘no-fault’ disorder — there is no rhyme or reason for whom it attacks. Do you feel shame when you have a broken leg, heart disease or high cholesterol? In the same way, Christians shouldn’t feel ashamed at having what amounts to a ‘broken emotional system’. Just because you have a mental illness doesn’t mean that you cannot be a believer. And it doesn’t make you any less of a Christian, either.”
ASSIST News Service is brought to you in part by Open Doors USA, a ministry that has served the Suffering Church around the world for nearly 50 years. You can get more information by logging onto their website at <http://www.opendoorsusa.org/>