I write this post with a heavy heart. I know it must be said. Some times some things need to be said and said and said again.
Depression effects many people in our society: doctors, lawyers, moms, dads, neighbors, church members and the list is long. Every one is a possible victim. Depression effects 1 in 10 people in their lifetime. Suicide occurs 1 every 13 minutes or approximately 40,000 lives each year.
Depression is a sickness, an illness, a disease. Those who experience it are often too bruised to touch and wounded in such deep ways we can't comprehend or even begin to offer help that can heal.
It is a drowning on the inside where one's energy is exhausted over time and a deep fog replaces clarity and good judgment.
It is an emotional cancer or emotional stroke for lack of better description that cripples the person, distorts their reality, their memory and changes their personality. The victim of depression is often trapped inside themselves and we can't reach in and they can't reach out.
Our best efforts and their best efforts often equate to helplessness on both ends.
If they could make themselves feel different or feel better they would. But they can't. There are variety of factors that cause depression. It is still so much we do not know. It can be biochemical; it can be emotional; it can physical or even spiritual. It can be one event or an accumulation of many.
It may not necessarily be one moment or one event that triggers a depression. We are often on the outside looking in as a loved one battles depression. One writer suggest that depression is like a civil war with in oneself.
Depression can lead to a variety of behaviors: hopelessness, isolation, withdrawal, loss of interest in activities usually embraced, thoughts of suicide or taking one's life and many other things. Again it is important to remember depression is not a matter of just making oneself feel better or pulling oneself up by their own bootstraps.
It is a decease, a sickness, an illness that cripples the normal health functions that we take for granted on a regular basis. It is a void. It is an absence sometimes of any feelings whatsoever.
When Depression leads to suicide it is devastating. It leaves us with more questions than answers. The family is often second guessing themselves and their actions. We are left with questions as to where did we fail? Why did it happen? Couldn't I have done more? Where was God?
There is guilt, confusion, anger and even anxiety of faith that accompanies the loved ones who are left behind.
Just as depression cheats the victim of their memories of life and love shared so too it wants to cheat the surviving family members of their memories of life and loved shared with the loved one as well. We can not let the actions of depression whether it be suicide or other actions, distort the truth of who the person was and who we were with them.
We have to continually redeem the memory of our loved one.
When it comes to suicide and depression, it is often hushed and not talked about. It is the ultimate taboo. But the Christian response is not so.
First we should not treat with horror or fear especially in regards to the victims eternal salvation. If we, in our finite minds can begin to grasp in small ways Depression and its effects, how much more can God who is infinite in his understanding reach into the darkness and intuit the deepest motivations of the heart. God sent Jesus who came for the sick. Depression is a sickness. God's redeeming love is far greater than we can ever fully comprehend.
The victim of depression and suicide is inside God's embrace. They are enjoying a freedom that was stolen from them because of the sickness, a freedom they wrestled with throughout the sickness. The victims are being healed by a touch they could not, for whatever reason, experience in the here and now.
On easter Saturday, we commemorate the death of Jesus who as we recite in the Apostles creed, descends into hell. There is no place Jesus' love and mercy cannot penetrate. He comes for the lost and the forsaken.
If our hopes in christ are limited to this life only, we are the most pitable of men, as St Paul tells us. Even in depression and suicide, hope remains for Christ remains steadfast to his word of promise.
Where we are helpless and where the victim is helpless, God is not. Just as Jesus walks through the locked door in the upper room and breathes his peace to the apostles who are scared and filled with anxiety so Jesus breathes his healing peace to the tortured and crippled souls of those victimized by depression and suicide.
Secondly, we should not speculate as to what caused the depression. Too often in small communities especially but in all communities, after a tragic event such a suicide, community members whisper behind the backs of families and speculate as to the cause of the depression and suicide. The truth is we do not know what causes it completely. There are too many factors to try to comprehend. Speculation and whispering is not healthy for the community, to the families dealing with the depression or the suicide, to ourselves as well. Our judgments are all to often wrong and miscalculated.
We should pray for them. We should pray for their healing and their strength as they process the events that have entered their life like an avalanche. We should talk about these things openly and grow in our own understanding of depression as a sickness and how to recognize the signs. We should be advocates for change and hope and never just gossip. Gossip never helps anyone.
We should express our sorrows but never think we fully understand what the family is going through. We should practice the art of love: patience and kindness and compassion. We love them. We pray for them. We are compassionate with them, as StPaul says we weep with those who weep. We find ways to help bear the burden until healing is realized.
Together hand in hand we go through this fog of confusion and hurt and pain. Each day we beg Him who said He is the light of the world to shed some light for us.