The news of Robin William's death hit me like a 50-ton lorry because I know the tightrope I walk between staying alive and not - I know too how much energy and determination it takes for me to keep myself alive, to make changes to my life which make it more bearable - I know also that I am just one bad trigger or one bad piece of news away from having to cope with suicidal feelings, ideation and so on - I also know there is no logic to suicide, it is not a cognitive thing, it is rooted in total desperation when you cannot keep living with the pain any more - it is a very black place of total overwhelm, mind, body, emotions, mentally and spiritually, - I am helped by the truth that it is about the pain of severe depression exceeding the ability to cope or the resources to cope - I don't talk about this side of my life outside of therapy, because it is a very difficult thing to live with BUT I really hate all the comments about suicide being a selfish act, not caring about those left behind - it is none of those things - it is an illness which takes too many lives, such comments make it very hard for people to be honest about the reality of living every day of your life with severe depression and what it takes out of you .
One of the reasons I left "the church" was because I've been judged, condemned, blamed [and all the rest] without fail in church upon church upon church during the last 2 decades of my life for having complex mental health issues which didn't respond to their theology - I've had it all said to me until I couldn't cope with it any more - and I know I am not the only Christian to have to cope with that crap - I even had one person tell me in 1997 that she didn't believe I could possibly be a Christian because I was so deeply depressed - I have never been able to forget her words and attitude - "the church" and Christians need to get past "mental health problems, depression etc are sin and so on" paradigm, it needs to get past "Christianity and depression do not go together", it needs to get past the deliverance + false forgiveness (all you need to do is forgive) assumptions that depressed Christians get forced into so much when they ask for help, it has destroyed so many lives and driven so many from the church.
I found this a really helpful perspective on suicide, it is an illness, a disease and it is lethal – Robin and every other person who dies from suicide are killed by the illness “depression” rather than killed himself.
An excerpt from the article -
"mental health is still vastly misunderstood in our culture. That it is undervalued, that it is not seen as “real”. We talk about psychology as a “soft” science. The stigma around going to therapy or taking medications persists. It is time we stopped thinking about mental health in this way. It is time we acknowledged that a disease in the brain is just as physical as a disease in the heart, lungs, or liver. The fact that it is more complicated, less understood, and only beginning to be studied, does not mean we can ignore this fact. In truth, it means the exact opposite: that mental health needs to be treated with urgency. That our society has to start treating its illnesses as every bit as deadly and malicious as other ailments. That research into these issues needs to be ramped up. What scares me the most about the death of Robin Williams is that it is clear how woefully ill-equipped the world is to fight mental health. How anyone, truly anyone, can fall to it, even someone with tons of money for treatment and support from the world. Perhaps Depression might lose some its “it was his own fault” stigma, if we start focussing on the illness, rather than the symptom. Robin Williams didn’t die from suicide. He died from Depression*. It wasn’t his choice to suffer.”
I found this article very helpful as it seeks to deal with a lot of the damaging attitudes about mental illness and how beliefs within “the church” towards people with mental illness about how all they need is more faith etc are so wrong and deeply damaging.
Some excerpts from the article -
“Robin Williams connected deeply in a light hearted way with such a broad cross section of people. His inner child was his outer adult, which shows bravery most of us lack. Finding Jesus is NOT the Cure for Depression.Mental illness is also incurable. While mental illness can be managed and treated, it never goes away.For some reason, especially in the church, we often judge people who are mentally ill as making poor choices in their lives or somehow not fully trusting in God. It’s almost as if physical impairments can’t be helped, but mental impairments just require people to simply try harder. If trying hard cured mental illness, then mental illness would be cured, because I don’t ‘know of anyone who tries harder to fit in or just function than people who struggle with these diseases.There are plenty of Christians who love Jesus with all of their hearts and have committed their entire lives to him, yet they are Schizophrenic, Bipolar, Clinically Depressed or smitten with another illnessMental and spiritual matters seem more inseparable than physical and spiritual matters. The fine line between the soul and spirit is hard to navigate. Can our souls be saved, while our minds are “lost”? That doesn’t even make sense. We are whole beings.People suffering from mental illness are often misunderstood and stigmatized. As hard as they try, they often don’t fit in. If they have a family, the family often feels like outsiders as well. Where can they find acceptance and understanding? If it’s not the church, then where?People with mental illness are exceptional. Certainly every mentally ill person is not a comic genius like Robin Williams, but they are exceptional because they don’t fit into the norm.No one is doing great work with the mentally ill. They are constantly shuffled back and forth from agency to agency. Most will end up in jail or homeless or dead. The church possesses the hope of the world. If anyone should care, shouldn’t it be the church?Begin to equip yourself, and God will use you. Be open.”