by guest blogger, Karen Hardin
I appreciate my friend Karen's thoughts for our families on this most distressing story this week. –Lisa
The headlines began populating the internet and media by mid-afternoon August 11, trying to make sense of a senseless loss.
“Robin Williams Dies by Suicide at 63.”
An unthinkable tragedy from a man who some have said “had everything” and yet obviously he didn’t. He didn’t have peace. But is that to say, he didn’t have some type of relationship with God, as some have suggested in their tweets and Facebook posts? Not necessarily. But human nature wants to blame something or someone and so we search for answers. And searching is good, if it leads us to the correct responses. So far, based on the innumerable cyberspace responses and outpouring of grief, I’m not convinced that has happened. And I am left wondering....Are we missing the point?
The questions and statements that are flooding the internet in response to this tragedy shine a light on yet another tragedy. We are potentially asking the wrong questions and making the wrong assessments. Here are just some of the posts and tweets flooding cyberspace after the announcement of Williams’ death.
FB Post: “What if he had known God?”
FB Post: Well, at last he is free.
Tweet: “Genie (in reference to his role in “Aladdin”) you’re free.
Tweet: It is chemical imbalance and not his fault.
Tweet: Now you can be happy.
But does suicide truly bring a final happiness? Is knowing God the “answer” to fighting suicidal thoughts? Can we realistically push all the blame to a chemical imbalances—although they are real?
Popular blogger Matt Walsh said in his post of August 12, “it isn’t just clinical, it’s spiritual,” a statement which has brought him under fire. I agree with Walsh. Depression, which precipitates suicide, isn’t just clinical. There is a spiritual element to this insidious plight that has taken the lives of young and old alike. There is a spiritual oppression that certainly plays a hideous role which sucks its victims into a hole so black and dark that they feel they will never emerge. And yet, there is no denying that depression is also clinical, as studies have shown that chemical imbalances in the brain and nervous system are definitely contributing factors in this issue of mental health.
As a parent we have to ask the hard questions, “What about my children or their friends?” Are they fighting this battle? Are they masking the fear, pain or an imbalance in their system that makes them susceptible to consider death an alternative to life?
For those who say they cannot comprehend what would push someone to consider suicide as a viable alternative, let me share some important facts:
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death in American teens.
- Suicide rates are four times higher among men than women.
- The strongest risk factor for suicide is depression.
Unless you have battled depression, (and it is important to note that not all who battle depression also battle suicidal thoughts) it is probably incomprehensible to grasp what would push someone to the brink of such despair that they feel their only alternative is to end it all. What kind of pain would lead someone to believe that there is truly no hope? And that is the key. The pain.
On August 12, Walsh commented on his blog, “I can’t comprehend the complete, total, absolute rejection of life. It’s a tragic choice, truly, but it is a choice, and we have to remember that. Your suicide doesn’t happen to you; it doesn’t attack you like cancer or descend upon you like a tornado. It is a decision made by an individual. A bad decision. Always a bad decision.”
I agree with Walsh—up to a point. I agree that the decision to attempt suicide is a choice….a decision…and always a bad decision. But I don’t believe Williams' decision was to reject life. Instead wasn’t it a decision to reject what had become for him unbearable pain and be free from the torment?
It is important to understand that contrary to Walsh’s post, depression can and does descend on many like a tornado. It IS like a cancer that eats away at the mental well-being of its victims from the inside out. The battle to return to “normal” is not a simple fix. Many who are in depression, face seasons in which the battle is daily. For them each day can be a fight—a decision--to stay in the game. It is a choice they make, in spite of the dark tunnel in which they find themselves. The painful escalation of whatever situation seems to be closing in and sucking the very life and breath from them. So how can we walk with them to keep them from losing the battle? From making the wrong choice?
When asked about Williams’ mental well-being, over and over his friends and colleagues responded, “I had no idea he was in such despair. I wish I would have known.”
Williams, like many who battle depression, chose to mask his pain—the emotional and mental turmoil—rather than reveal the anguish that penetrated his heart, soul and mind. He used comedy as a therapeutic drug that kept the focus off his personal problems. Make people laugh. Make them think everything is ok. But it wasn’t.
Which brings me to the real point that I think we wish we did not have to face:
Maybe there is a “Robin Williams” sitting at the desk next to me, or standing in the mall beside me, or sitting at the dining room table with me --- masking their pain and turmoil behind a smile or joke. Because too often, in my busyness, I can overlook the obvious often right in front of me.
And so tonight I am humbled to lay aside the questions I cannot settle about brain chemicals or demonic torment and instead whisper an earnest prayer....."Lord, what can I do? How can I step out of my own world and be more astute at recognizing the pain and the needs of those around me?"
And then when I am forced to think of all those who tonight could be tormented about what they did not see and what they did not do, I would add on another part to that prayer....
"Lord, for those family and friends who are going through the ultimate agony of regret, grant them grace and peace. And ultimately may You be the One they run to for strength and courage and hope. Amen." Image Source: Wikipedia
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karen Hardin is a seasoned homeschool mom of three, author and literary agent with more than 25 years in the Christian publishing industry. For more information on Karen or to subscribe to her writing and marketing tips blog go to: www.prioritypr.org
Is Suicide the Parent’s Fault?