“A Lesson From Suicide”

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By Angel Simmons ©

I have come across a few comments from people expressing their opinion regarding others acknowledging the death of Robin Williams. The messages have accused the masses of caring more about a famous actors’ suicide than the murders of our innocent children being gunned down in the streets or the incredible violence overseas. I find these assumptions to be highly disturbing- especially when the main tragedy, a life lost to depression, seems to get lost in the story.

depression definition

For over seven years, I have worked in social services. I watch women struggle every single day with the most simple of tasks. I see firsthand how depression turns getting out of bed and feeding yourself or your child into a mountain of work that one would sooner avoid than fight to accomplish. I’ve had countless mothers sit in my office crying their eyes out over the difficulty of finding or keeping a job because of their medication or lack thereof. I’ve even been attacked, verbally and physically, by residents who could not control their emotional outbursts and had reached the breaking point. Without the proper treatment, depression is a monster that takes away pieces of your life at a time.

not okay

The most surprising thing I have learned regarding depression is that many of those who battle with it are often surrounded by people who love and support them. It is not extreme sadness or grief; depression is a disability, a mental illness that requires lifelong treatment. Famed author Andrew Solomon said “The opposite of depression is not happiness- it’s vitality.” Vitality is the power that makes us WANT to live. When that zeal is gone, death is seemingly inevitable.


For all of the Christians reading this and wondering why I haven’t mentioned Jesus yet: PAY ATTENTION. Depression, like any other mental illness, requires treatment- whether that treatment comes in the form of regular counseling or medication. It is critical for us all to address mental illness, encourage those suffering to get the help they need, to be supportive when they do seek help, and to stop sweeping it under the rug. Many churches aren’t dealing with it. Many pastors aren’t qualified to provide counseling for it. Most people refuse to even talk about it. We have to do better as a community (of believers or otherwise) in raising awareness and providing resources for those in need of help. And we have to be open and compassionate enough to HEAR what someone is saying and be able to recognize their cry for help.

Robin Williams spent much of his life making people laugh until they cried. But in the end, he felt so alone and tormented by addiction and mental illness that he saw no hope or reason to go on. His death is tragic indeed… leaving behind a loving family and friends to mourn him. And it is a terrible reminder of what pain could be lurking behind someone’s smile or gift to the world. His death isn’t more important than the hundreds of youth lost to violence in our neighborhoods each year, or the thousands being slain in war and protest in other countries. I’ve never even met the man. However, his death has forced me to look at the people that I claim to love and truly listen to their hearts. I am more aware. And I am tuned in.

August 12, 2014