Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams Died From A Disease, NOT A Choice

Robin Williams suffered from Depression, a very real medical condition that threatens the lives of its victims.
Feeling sad, or what we may call "depressed", happens to all of us. The sensation usually passes after a while. However, people with a depressive disorder - clinical depression - find that their state interferes with daily life.
For people with clinical depression, their normal functioning is undermined to such an extent that both they and those who care about them are affected by it.
It's not just something people can "get over", because that's not how Depression works.  When someone with Depression takes their own life, it's not a selfish act as some say.

Others will claim the resulting suicide is a mere choice of the sufferer.
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.
Except that, if you have it, Depression DOES happen to you.  Walsh displays a profound failure to understand what Depression really is in his proclamations about it.
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. He died by his own hand. Depression will not appear on the autopsy report, because it can’t kill you on its own. It needs you to pull the trigger, take the pills, or hang the rope. To act like death by suicide is exactly analogous to death by malaria or heart failure is to steal hope from the suicidal person. We think we are comforting him, but in fact we are convincing him that he is powerless. We are giving him a way out, an excuse. Sometimes that’s all he needs — the last straw.
He's technically correct in saying that a choice is involved.  His failure to understand lies in the place where that choice is made.  He fails to understand what leads to that choice.  He fails to understand how Depression puts people in a position of non-stop suffering.

Depression tortures people from within their own minds.  It puts them in a place where death is seen as the only possibility of escape from that torture.
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. Joy is light, depression is darkness. When we are depressed, we have trouble seeing joy, or feeling it, or feeling worthy of it. I know that in my worst times, at my lowest points, it’s not that I don’t see the joy in creation, it’s just that I think myself too awful and sinful a man to share in it.
He almost gets it right, and yet still misses the mark by as far as it can be missed.  Depression causes sadness that overrides any potential joy.  It's a medical condition that causes sadness.  It's something quite different from a mere lack of joy.  If Walsh deals with Depression as he claims, he should know better.

But instead, he's even worse, calling it a spiritual condition.
I can understand atheists who insist that depression must only be a disease of the brain, as they believe that our entire being is contained by, and comprised of, our physical bodies. But I don’t understand how theists, who acknowledge the existence of the soul, think they can draw some clear line of distinction between the body and the soul, and declare unequivocally that depression is rooted in one but not the other. This is a radically materialist view now shared by millions of spiritualist people.
All this nonsense does is reinforce the idea that a sufferer of Depression has no hope.  It tells them that their medical issue is not something that can be overcome with medicine.  It's spiritual.  It tells people that their Depression can be overcome by simply praying and getting to closer to their God.  And when that inevitably doesn't work, it tells them that their continued Depression is their own fault for not being close enough to that god for them to be healed.

Walsh says he doesn't understand how theists can have a proper understanding of Depression.  Here's what one, Christian blogger Chris Attaway, had to say to that.
We don't expect people with Downs syndrome to perform rocket science. We don't expect people with cerebral palsy to perform at the Olympic level. We never fault them for this, and we do our best to love them and support them in their limitations.
Why, then, do we treat people with depression and similar illnesses as though they should be able to perform at a level well above the limitations of their disease? Why do some people -- like Matt Walsh, the consistently insensitive "Christian" blogger -- try to fault people for not making all the right choices, even when those people have problems which preclude making all the right choices?
People like Matt Walsh aren't helping, because their backward view of mental illness treats as a matter of choice, rather than the legitimate medical condition it is.  They're perpetuating nonsense.

I pity anyone who suffers from mental illness and only has people like Walsh as support.  But we can mitigate the damage done by Walsh's nonsense by being vocal against it.  If you make it known that you will be supportive, rather than judgmental, you may end up being the only person someone has to come to when they need such help.

Because we certainly don't want them to going to people who will shame them for something absolutely no one should be ashamed of.

Some tributes to Williams that I've liked:

To stab the giant in the eye (RIP Robin Williams)

'He was a hero to me': Paul F. Tompkins on Robin Williams

5 Times Robin Williams Was Pretty Much the Best Guy Ever

Robin Williams and Why Funny People Kill Themselves

Robin Williams: When depression kills

Robin Williams's death: a reminder that suicide and depression are not selfish

Robin Williams’s Verdict on Life

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