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Before suicide, ex-youth pastor Steve Austin came out as queer, revealed family struggles

Steve Austin, Lindsey Austin
Steve Austin and his wife, Lindsey. |

Days before he was found dead in Alabama of an apparent suicide, Steve Austin, a former youth pastor, suicide survivor and mental health advocate, sought financial help from subscribers to his newsletter as his wife, Lindsey, battled a mental health crisis a week after he publicly came out as queer.

“For a bit of back story, Lindsey switched from one SSRI to another a little more than two weeks ago. After several nights of no sleep, increased blood pressure, and some new mental health symptoms, she was treated at our local emergency room last Wednesday. Unfortunately, things worsened from there,” Austin, 38, wrote in a June 2 post from his newsletter "Faith + Mental Health."

SSRI, also known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, is a type of antidepressant that works by increasing levels of serotonin within the brain, according to Drugs.com. Serotonin, often called the “feel good hormone,” is a neurotransmitter that carries messages between brain cells and contributes to well-being, good mood and appetite. It also helps the body regulate the sleep-wake cycle and internal clock.

“Lindsey is now at a hospital downtown, where she’s been for a few days, and will likely be for another week. I don’t want to go into too many specifics because I cherish Lindsey’s privacy. But please keep her brain and body in your prayers,” Austin asked.

He further noted that his wife would be unable to work due to her condition, and he would only be able to do limited work. He invited anyone interested in helping his family financially to donate via his CashAppVenmo or PayPal accounts.

It is unclear how much was raised through that appeal, but the late pastor revealed that local friends and family had “scooped up” their two children, a 9-year-old boy and 7-year-old girl, “and cared for them so well.”

Days later, the author, podcaster and life coach was reported missing from his home in Alabaster. He was eventually found dead in a vehicle in the parking lot of a business early on the morning of Monday, June 7, AL.com reported.

Austin had a book set for publication on July 20, titled Hiding in the Pews: Shining Light on Mental Illness in the Church, in which he tackled the issue of mental health in the Church.

Austin’s suicide and his book come in the wake of his May 23 declaration that he identified as queer, which he revealed to his wife for the first time in 2018.

“For the past three decades, I’ve lived a lie, hoping to appease a group of people who only support you if you follow their rules and live up to their unfair and unrealistic expectations,” Austin revealed in his May 23 Substack newsletter, approximately two weeks before he was found dead.

“I knew I wasn’t completely straight when I was twelve. Sure, I’ve been in hetero (or straight-passing) relationships all my life, but that’s not exactly who I am. Well, the hiding ends today."

Austin explained that he chose to come out as queer because “vulnerability is my favorite characteristic in any human.”

“I have two new books releasing in the next six months. Each one focuses a great deal on vulnerability," he wrote. "So, this is one more way I am mustering all of my courage and grace to come out of the shadows and allow God’s light to shine even more brightly on my whole self - my true self. And honestly, I never want the size of my audience to determine my level of authenticity. So why not START this new season of my life by no longer hiding in the pews?” 

Austin further explained that he made the public declaration with the full support of his wife.

“To be clear: Lindsey and I are not separating or starting new/separate lives. This [is] about uncovering my truest self, while learning to celebrate the intricate ways in which God designed us all. Thankfully, my wife is celebrating my truth with me,” he wrote. “Lindsey and I deeply care about each other and are great partners and co-parents with a wonderful, healthy, happy marriage. When I first shared my truth with Lindsey back in 2018, she didn’t shrink back in fear. She didn’t pull away in disgust. She didn’t file for divorce. She took my most significant concern, wrapped it in unconditional love and acceptance, and handed it back to me.”

Nine years ago, at the age of 29, Austin tried to end his life in a hotel room with his Bible in his lap while serving as a youth pastor.

In his 2016 book, From Pastor to a Psych Ward: Recovery from a Suicide Attempt is Possible, Austin recounts surviving sexual abuse as a preschooler, his favorite aunt’s suicide, battling mental illness and struggling with a porn addiction before he eventually lost his ministry job over “unethical” contact with youth under his care.

At that point, Austin attempted suicide in a hotel room by overdosing on prescription drugs and over-the-counter medication.

“When the police and paramedics opened the door, they pushed through the lounger, the kitchen and coffee tables, and found my body there, in the hotel room," he wrote. "I was lying on my back, covered in vomit. There was vomit on the bed, on the floor, and it had projected up the wall behind me and covered a massive picture that hung behind the bed. Those who found me thought it was a murder scene."

A GoFundMe account established to help Austin's family has raised over $32,000 in three days as of Monday afternoon. 

"Unfortunately, Steve succumbed to his suicidal ideations in a time of struggle and despair," the page's organizer, Kristie Lawley Burch, wrote. "Knowing how much he advocated for those of us who also battle our own demons, we felt Steve would have wanted you to know."

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