Since the death of Robin Williams, “experts” on depression and suicide have come out of the woodwork. I am concerned for those who struggle with depression, as many of these self-proclaimed “experts” tout their opinions as facts. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I have learned some things from years of living with a husband who had bipolar and died by suicide as well as from my education in counseling.
People often mean well, but their well-intentions can often leave someone who is depressed feeling even more burdened. I discussed this in a previous post (click here to read the post). People who are depressed don’t need trite promises of a bright tomorrow. They don’t need to hear that their depression is due to a lack of faith — if it didn’t help when Job’s friends tried it, why do we keep pretending to be God and acting like we have all the answers.
The truth is, there are times when some go through a dark night of the soul. Many stay in this pit, for weeks or longer. When they are in the pit, they need to see Light so that they have hope of escape. So the question becomes, how can Christians share this Light without further burdening someone who is down?
There are times when there are no words. When someone loses a loved one to suicide, there are no words that can erase the pain. The greatest gift you can offer during this time is your presence. Be with them in the pain. Walk beside them. Let them know that you are not a fair weather friend, but that you will stick by them. Your presence may offer them the strength that they need to face another day.
(On a side note, it infuriates me that many people can be so insensitive to family members after suicidal loss. We’d never go up to parent at a funeral home who just lost a son to cancer and say, “Why do you think he died? Was it that he didn’t get enough chemo? Did the doctor not do enough to help — or maybe he just didn’t trust God to heal him?” Trust me, family members are asking WHY and they don’t need you to ask them.)
There is a lot of debate among Christians about whether depression should be medicated. I have met countless people who tell me that without medication, they would be dead. Antidepressants can save lives. Are there cases of abuse? Sure, but we could say the same thing about the overuse of antibiotics. Do we deem all antibiotics evil and cease to use them since they are over-prescribed? I encourage anyone who is taking antidepressants long-term to consider seeing a psychiatrist; they know much more about psychopharmacology and are better able to monitor your medication use.
I hesitated to join the debate about medication because people are very passionate about their beliefs. Regardless of your opinion, I challenge you to join me in praying for the family of Robin Williams. I also encourage you to pray for others who have lost a loved one to suicide. All the media hype may reopen old wounds, and they may need someone to talk to about their own experiences with suicide. Be that someone. Listen. Be present. Pray.