Along with unnumbered scores of others, I was saddened by yesterday’s news of Robin Williams suicide. Every suicide is a tragedy, but this particular death has people talking. It is shocking to think that someone who brought us so much laughter experienced the kind of despair that leads to such a decision. Such a thing drives home the point that mental illness does not discriminate. Men, women, children, old, young, rich, poor. Anyone can find themselves in the midst of deep pain and confusion.
In this Internet age, anyone can post any opinion with the brush of a few keys, and I think that’s perfectly fine. Every one of us has the right to our own thoughts. I believe in free speech. But I also believe in compassion. Too many articles touching on this subject lack it, whether from the ignorance of “he’s free now,” something that belittles the entire topic of suicide and all those who have been impacted by it, to those who hone in only on the personal responsibility of Mr. Williams, to still others who speak of “just choos[ing] joy.” Mental illness is far too complex an issue to be reduced in such a way.
Honestly, I wish that the discussion of these things could be limited to those who have walked through the shadows and those who are trained to walk with them. But, again, anyone can say anything. So let me simply request this of you: Speak with compassion. Try to imagine the deep, tortuous pain and agonizing sorrow that would move someone to take his own life. Try to understand that this is not “just” a spiritual issue, nor is it “just” a physical issue. Mental illness takes over the totality of a person. The vision is clouded over – the vision of the eyes and the vision of the soul.
You would not speak to a cancer patient and tell her to “just get over it.” You would not tell an man with a broken leg to walk normally. No. You would come alongside and do what you could to help. This is exactly what the mentally ill need. We need your encouragement, your prayers, your friendship and your attempt at understanding. We need your grace and your hugs.
We do not need your condemnation, your attempts at neat classification or your ill-informed and lofty opinions spouted as fact.
Think about Jesus. Think about how He would speak to someone in despair.
Go and do likewise.