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Sunday, August 17, 2014

My thoughts on Robin Williams and suicide

The world has become so politically correct now that we can't even say the truth about suicide.  It used to be that the "default" thing to say when someone committed suicide was that he "took the cowardly way out."  Sheppard Smith said that on Fox a couple days ago, and he had to apologize and retract his statement.

Now political correctness has consumed our culture. Before this heightened sensitivity to not offending anyone consumed our society, we used to be able to speak the truth.  When we turned on the TV we would get the truth  Now the only way to be sure we are getting the truth is to read a column, blog, or watch or listen to the many political commentaries.

The reason people said "it was the cowardly way out" was because most people commit suicide rather than face the challenges of life.  We said it because there are people that you leave behind when you kill yourself, and you are leaving them with the grief, agony and pain that you are gone.  Maybe you are also leaving them with all the burdens you didn't want to face anymore, be they financial or other.

When people wrote about suicide they talked about the torturous effect it had on the spouse, children, parents, and friends.  There was talk about "what did I do that might have caused that person to commit kill himself.  There is the regret that they should have noticed the signs and done something to prevent it.

As a Catholic, we believed that suicide was a mortal sin.  If you got to the point in your life that you had to kill yourself, you were doomed to hell.  This was the disincentive to do it.

Today suicide is glorified, and mainly due to social media.  Instead of walking around that Robin Williams killed himself, they seem to glorify it.  They talk about all the accomplishments in his life, and how the world around him was so bad that it forced him to do it.

The truth is, the world around us has never, is not, and will never be easy.  There will always be challenges that we have to face.  Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but those who are sick with severe depression do not see that.

I had a friend commit suicide once.  He told me the day before he was going to do it that he was going to do it.  We were at hunting camp where we all joke around and have fun, and here he spawns this on us.  One of the campers was a counselor, and he talked with Jim.

I remember everyone taking pictures of Jim, just in case.  I remember Jim saying to me that his wife had her children living in the house, and he was so depressed about it."

I said, "Why don't you tell them?  Why don't you just leave?"

He said, "Because I can't.  They count on me.  I'm trapped."

I completely understand how he feels.  As a parent I often feel trapped.  Here my kids get all the attention, and all our money is spent on them, and what is left for my wife and I.  Sometimes I feel trapped.  Sometimes we all feel this way.  It's normal.

I think that one of the greatest challenges to our society is depression, mainly because you can't just look at someone and know they are depressed.  And when you are the person who is depressed, you feel embarrassed to say anything about it. So it goes untreated.  So I can see how it can spin out of control.

What if the fact that we have glorified the suicide of Robin Williams -- the world around him caused it, some reports claimed -- other people whose worlds are falling apart, people seeking attention, people who want to be the center of attention, take the same route and kill themselves.  They will be talked about as heroes among their community.

The solution, however, is not to get all politically correct about it.  The solution is to call it what it is: a horrible act of desperation due to a medical condition that did not get treated.

Further reading:

  1. Depression alone rarely causes suicide
  2. Mrs. Doubtfire did it?

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