Facebook has been saturated with sentimental posts of Robin Williams’ passing. Emotional reflections of favorite Williams’ movies and condolences towards his family riddled my news feed as I scrolled through. It’s always sad to lose an American icon. But what adds to the pain is when among the many kind and sensitive remarks made there were still some that stood out as cruel and ignorant. The following are phrases that tend to surface whenever the depression/suicide topic comes up.
These phrases are very damaging towards those suffering from depression as well as their loved ones.
1. “Committing suicide is selfish”
When we make the claim that suicide is selfish we completely disregard the pain that the individual is going through. THAT is selfish. When we truly analyze what the patient is going through; the pain, the emptiness and numbness likely influenced by a chemical imbalance, then we should have no place in saying that they’re the ones being selfish. Many who have committed suicide have been treated very selfishly throughout their lives.
When we call suicide selfish we make it about us, thus sidelining those who are truly in pain.
You know what isn’t selfish? Reaching out to those who are in pain and meeting them where they’re at. That means identifying their condition as a condition and not a pity party.
“Committing suicide is selfish” is among the most selfish things a person can say.
2. “Just seek Jesus”
When we say, “just seek Jesus,” we isolate depression to a spiritual condition and disregard the physiological implications. If one truly understood the physiology of depression then they would know that this phrase is no different then saying it to someone with a broken arm or a heart condition.
By no means am I suggesting that prayer is ineffective but we must remember that the fall of man was not just salvific. It was a curse on the earth and on humanity.
Jesus is the remedy to our salvation and he can indeed heal with supernatural powers BUT he has also given wisdom and skills to his people that he may facilitate to bring healing to the suffering.
3. “They’re just doing it for the attention”
When I was stationed in Japan I had a friend call me up to see if I could chat. She was always depressed. While I was at her place she took two pills (her prescription). I would later find out that she took them in front of me on purpose in efforts to convince me to call 9-11 “because she was trying to commit suicide.” She ended up calling 9-11 herself shortly after I left and told the authorities that I observed her take the pills and did nothing to stop her. After running blood tests they found that she had nothing more than her prescription amount in her system- and I was cleared.
So I get it.
However, people don’t commit suicide for attention- people will pretend to commit suicide for attention. There is a huge difference.
When we casually pair suicidal patients with “attention seekers” we give the patients no hope for healing because when we say that they’re merely seeking attention we prove to them that we are CLUELESS to the reality of their pain. If you don’t know their heart- seek it or do nothing about it. And by nothing I more so mean don’t accuse them of anything. The risk is too great.
Unless we have compelling evidence to say they’re being fake I would error on the side of caution and not accuse them. Though if there is compelling evidence that they’re being fake then I see strong premise for calling them out for making a mockery of such a tragic scenario.
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4. “You have un-confessed sin”
I understand that as Christians we will feel convicted by the Holy Spirit when we are living a lifestyle of sin that has gone unconfessed before the throne. But what about those outside of Christianity? What about those who identify as atheists? What about those who identify with a spirituality outside of Christian theology or practice?
If it’s unconfessed sin then why is it that many outside of Christianity don’t have depression? They have unconfessed sin, why aren’t they depressed? Now, some may argue that they don’t have the Holy Spirit to convict them thus the “depression” won’t set in. Very well, then what about the non-believers who do suffer from depression?
The point is, we cannot scientifically or rationally identify depression merely as unconfessed sin.
Also, what about the Christian who has been intentional about confessing every sin to the greatest of transparency…but still suffers from depression?
5. “They had it made, how can they be depressed!?”
Depression is not about happiness. It’s about a daunting and overwhelming imbalance that causes great sorrow. To use the above phrase is no different from saying, “he had all the happiness in the world, why would he have cancer?” Robin Williams was a very wealthy man. He had the means to access the best of the best treatment out there, and he did seek it. No matter the joy that comes with materials, depression will still exist and still cause great damage.
“Depression knows no boundaries of fame, success, wealth or background. I suffered from depression terribly in 2010. It’s a deadly illness that MUST be treated as much as cancer or heart disease. And sufferers MUST have support of family and friends as much as if they have cancer or heart disease. To do any less as a friend or family member is to leave your loved one to the ravages of disease- to fend for themselves.” -Robin Purvis
Friends, you don’t need a PhD to help someone. Some help is isolated to the experts but you can do so much good without formal education in this field. But be aware, you can do so much damage too. These 5 phrases give no hope to those suffering from depression because they see no future of people understanding them and thus see no hope for healing.
Friends, be cognizant of your surroundings. Love the broken, call out the insensitive critics and always show compassion towards those with this epidemic disposition. Never fail to administer grace for it is the foundation of healing. Think critically before speaking or posting anything. If it offends someone without having any type of constructive influence then just be silent. If it’s not about you- don’t make it about you.
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About the Author
Hi, my name is John and I love coffee. As I write this I’m sitting in a local brewery sipping a “mudslide” espresso with cream and two and a half sugars. There are few things in life that I feel merit precise orchestration with no room for error, coffee is one of them. My life belongs to Jesus. I am his son and he is my King. His work in my life is reason enough for my faith to be made complete. He lived to die for me so that I may be credited righteous thus I will live for him. I don’t hold any radical theological views, other than I serve a radical God. I affirm scriptural inerrancy, infallibility and the Bible as God’s final authority in text. See full bio here