Ignorance and Suicide

I want to address something. A friend of mine emailed me a link to a blog post this morning:

Robin Williams didn’t die from a disease, he died from his choice

Here are some quotes from Matt Walsh’s post written in the wake of Robin Williams’ passing:

“Suicide…I can’t comprehend it. The complete, total, absolute rejection of life. The final refusal to see the worth in anything, or the beauty, or the reason, or the point, or the hope. The willingness to saddle your family with the pain and misery and anger that will now plague them for the rest of their lives.”

“It’s a tragic choice, truly, but it is a choice, and we have to remember that. Your suicide doesn’t happen to you; it doesn’t attack you like cancer or descend upon you like a tornado. It is a decision made by an individual. A bad decision. Always a bad decision.”

“It makes us feel better to say that depression is only a disease and that there is no will and choice in suicide, as if a person who kills themselves is as much a victim as someone who succumbs to leukemia.”

“First, suicide does not claim anyone against their will. No matter how depressed you are, you never have to make that choice. That choice. Whether you call depression a disease or not, please don’t make the mistake of saying that someone who commits suicide “died from depression.” No, he died from his choice.”

“Second, we can debate medication dosages and psychotherapy treatments, but, in the end, joy is the only thing that defeats depression. No depressed person in the history of the world has ever been in the depths of despair and at the heights of joy at the same time. The two cannot coexist.”

I will now give you this:

Mutations on three genes could predispose people to suicidal behavior

The genetic basis for suicidal behavior

I will also give you this because Mr. Walsh’s post smacks of gnosticism:

The Matter of Knowing

Stigma is still an issue today because of the prevailing attitude in Mr. Walsh’s post.  What is that attitude? Choose.  Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.  Get over it.  Stop being so selfish.  Find your joy now! It’s time to stop feeling so sad.

The reason he can’t comprehend suicide is because he isn’t clinically depressed.  Mentally healthy people should not be able to comprehend suicide.  Suicide is indeed a symptom of mental illness.  If you are mentally ill particularly with mood and thought disorders, then suicidal ideation will not be new to you.  This is why one of the criteria for a mixed state is suicidal ideation.  It’s not a choice.  People don’t simply choose to end their own lives.  They don’t choose to ignore joy.

Joy is an impossibility for certain mental illnesses.  

I don’t expect Mr. Walsh to comprehend this.  I didn’t recognize the face of these diseases until I saw them in my daughter’s countenance.  I did, however, grow up with a parent who tried to commit suicide many times.  Both my paternal grandparents died by suicide.  A family friend died by suicide a few years ago.  Looking back, I can see how he declined.  I don’t believe that he chose to die.  I believe that his suicide was a symptom of his untreated mood disorder.

I respect Mr. Walsh’s right to voice his opinion, but I vehemently disagree with him.  His view is one of the reasons why stigma still exists today particularly in the Church.  His post is judgmental and shaming, and it is ignorant.

I do, however, agree with him on one thing.  Where there is life, there is hope.  Feelings are not facts.  You might feel like you can’t go on.  You might feel worthless.  You might feel like if you disappear today, then no one would miss you.

Those are all feelings.  They are not facts.  They are not truths.  What is true? You are valuable simply because you exist.  Hold on to that.

And call this number or visit this website:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or 1-800-273-TALK (8255)



8 thoughts on “Ignorance and Suicide

  1. Well done MJ! The bottom line is that Matt Walsh just doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about. His ignorance of mental illness is so profound that I can only imagine he was kept in some kind of bubble for many years and simply not exposed to genuine human condition. If his simplification of this tragic topic had even the slightest bit of truth to it, there would be far less suicide attempts and successes. Suicide has been a part of every culture of mankind known to history. “But, hey you guys… just make the right choice!” Are you kidding me? Who is this guy? Sorry, I just lost a close friend to suicide, she was the Godmother to my son and I can assure you that she didn’t flip a coin to decide.

    Thanks MJ. 🙂 John

      • Oh..my…goodness! I’m utterly speechless. That is one of the most tragic things I’ve heard. I am so, so sorry to hear that. I have no words.

        I hope that the rest of your life from here on out is as brilliant and full of joy and goodness as the previous years might have been marked by loss and grief. That is what I wish for you and your son.

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