This week the world lost an incredibly gifted, compassionate, kind and benevolent individual in the person of comedian/actor/activist, Robin Williams. By all accounts, he was "universally" loved and admired. Despite his ability to keep us in stitches with his lunacy as well as his ability to move us to tears with his dramatic side, he suffered through a dark aspect of his being...Robin Williams battled severe depression. According to news outlets, at age 63 he ended his own life in a lonely room, suspended with a belt around his neck.
Reports indicate that he also struggled through bipolar disease, alcohol and drug addictions. Mental illness is not a respecter of persons. Money, fame and even human admiration and love could not shield him from the ravaging effects of this horrid malady. An article in USA Today entitled, "All the on-screen laughs can't protect against depression," says it well...
That a "universally loved" entertainer like Robin Williams could commit suicide "speaks to the power of psychiatric illness," mental health experts say.The article further states...
"People who are severely depressed can't see past their failures, even if they've been as successful as Williams... With depression, people just forget...they get consumed by the depression and by the feelings of not being worthy that they forget all of the wonderful things in their lives...Having depression and being in a suicidal state twists reality."(Article excerpts from August 12th, 2014 USA Today
Life 3D Section.)
Depression is real and can visit anyone, no matter how "good," "saved," or righteous. Many factors can play a role in a person experiencing depression: genetics, hormones, life circumstances, etc. Society in general and the church in particular has done a poor job in understanding or supporting individuals over taken by this illness. Although very different, an individual with a felony and an individual with a history of treatment. i.e., therapy, counseling, etc., for a mental illness (depression included) are often treated the same when applying for a position. Shame, fear, feelings of weakness, failure and inadequacy frequently shackle individuals and their families as they struggle to deal with depression. The depressed are often accused rather than helped. Many, yea even in the church pew and pulpit suffer in silence for fear of losing opportunities, positions, employment, respect, and relationships.
The next time we encounter someone who suffers from depression, may we prayerfully "stop, look and listen." May we as "The Church" take time to become educated about the signs and the symptoms of depression. May we resist the temptation to pass judgment and criticisms. Without becoming enablers for those who will not participate in or take responsibility for their own healing process, may we be careful to walk empathetically beside them. May we be compassionate and not critical, patient and not angry, supportive, yet encouraging through urging them to get the help that they need (and not subsequently penalizing them for seeking and receiving that help). When possible may we "be" the help they need through our ministry of presence. For some, medication and or professional counseling may be necessary. Others may simply need a safe (confidential, non-judge mental, free) place to vent with an "active listener."
Prayer is "a" key. Faith unlocks the door. Faith, however, without works is dead...sometimes literally.
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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,