Depression and Suicide in the News
By Dr. Colin Archer
Apr 18, 2013 - 12:57:42 AM
Of the thousands of pieces I’ve written for my program Investing in Being Human, few have been produced with more passion and fervor than those dealing with depression and suicide.
The suicidal death of popular US evangelist Rick Warren’s 27-year-old son, Matthew Warren, who killed himself last week, presumably with a firearm, brings to the fore once again, the relationship between mental illness, depression and suicide.
Reports indicate that Matthew took his life after a lifelong battle with mental illness. Over the years he had been treated by America’s best doctors and counsellors. His father, Rick, describes his son as incredibly kind, gentle and compassionate, who had a brilliant intellect and a gift for sensing who was most in pain or most uncomfortable in a room and would make a bee-line to that person to engage and encourage them. Rick also said: Only those closest knew that he struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression and even suicidal thoughts… the torture of mental illness never subsided… Despite the best healthcare available, this was an illness that was never fully controlled and the emotional pain resulted in his decision to take his life.
As a doctor of the church, I’ve argued many years, for the most part without success, that congregations ought to regard themselves as spiritual hospitals for the physically, culturally and emotionally sickest. But sadly, and to my way of thinking, inexplicably, the reverse is often the case. The strongest, richest, most influential and well-placed in society often rule supreme in our pristine places and palaces of worship. I explore this anomaly of the poor Christ and His rich church in my first book, Poverty: The Church’s Abandoned Revolution. Although written over three decades ago, that volume is as relevant today as it was in the 1970s.
Were we to address openly and consistently in our chapels, and provide creative and holistic opportunities for health, healing and wholeness for the least among us - the poor, homeless, mentally ill and the like - many of our communities’ inter-human tragedies would, I’m certain, be considerably lessened. Nonbelievers or would-be believers get sick and believers get sick too. And sometimes believers are a lot sicker than nonbelievers. We are all still FHBs, fallible human beings.
Fast forward to September 2006, I find myself completing a candid, detailed and somewhat lengthy author’s note to my 2007 published book, Contemplation 365 [Devotional Readings for The Spiritual Life]. The note is more a personal confession than anything else, with this opening paragraph, one, I’m sure, Matthew Warren, could have written with much greater zeal and conviction. I wrote: There is a very personal story behind writing this book. It will probably come as a surprise to you. As early as I can remember – certainly since my mid-teens – I recognized and experienced a low-grade, yet persistent and unrelenting malaise, a feeling of uneasiness, which, in later years I came to recognize as the reacting-depressive aspect of my personality.
In Contemplation 365, I share with readers, be they healthy or ill, depressive or not, some of the resources I have effectively utilized over the years to sooth my sometimes tortured inner being. I too, as a devoted disciple of the religion of Jesus and a psychoteologian, have often trod the “dark hole” of depression. In my case, though non-clinical in nature, my depression was managed and allowed to work in my favor, due mainly, beginning early in life and practiced throughout adulthood, by a consistent, daily and effective exercise of devotional-meditations. This ongoing journey I share in Contemplation 365.
Then in 2011, at the prompting of my wife, Marjorie, I find myself pouring over thousands of investing in being human broadcasts made over eighteen years, and out of the lot selecting the first 46-cuts for my CD vol.1 with said title. Of the first batch of forty-six, one topic only demanded a two-part treatment, namely, Preventing Suicide.
Specialists in the mental health field all agree that most suicides are due to some kind of severe underlying depression and accompanied often by anxiety and/or panic attacks.
Considering suicide was never for me an option, largely because, as noted earlier, I attempted 365 days a year to contemplate, meditate and where practicable, put into practice some of the themes referenced in Contemplation 365. There would I go, down the dark and lonely road of self-destruction, but for the amazing grace of All-Mighty God. Hope was kept alive, and in turn it helped keep me alive.
If you suspect or detect unremitting depression in yourself, or if you are concerned that you or somebody known to you is suicidal, don’t decide to wait and see. This is not something that should be left to the depressed person, simply because that person is not their best self. They are not functioning at an optimum level of normalcy. It’s not then the time for sympathizing, listening, sermonizing, convincing, lecturing, trying to restore hope, or trying to get them to shape up or snap-out-of-it. On their own, the severely depressed person is unable to help oneself. Delaying medical treatment is risky and could prove deadly. Such a person needs your immediate, hands-on assistance. Step in and get them to a physician or an emergency medical services unit. While most depressive conditions are treatable and curable, suicide prevention is a matter of and for public involvement.
Let’s continue investing in being human by planning, working and praying for our wellbeing and that of our fellow travelers, especially those in the torturous vortex of mental illness, depression and suicidal thinking. And let us be kind one to another, as the ancient Plato reminds us, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.
About the author:
Dr Colin Archer is
an ordained Christian Minister and Psycho-theologian, who at an early
age he realized a keen sensitivity for the poor, homeless and
dispossessed in relation to church and society. He served as
Psychotherapist at a psychiatric hospital in Nassau, Bahamas for many
years. He is the founding president of The Bahamas
Council on Alcoholism, later establishing a half-way house for
recovering victims of alcohol abuse and a home for battered women
through Methodist Community & Church Ministries.
He is currently the Author of five (5)
books, due to launch his sixth book, Foundation 7 Formation, due to be
released in Spring of 2013. www.investinginbeinghuman.com
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