Flirting with Suicide
By Roger Scarlett
I’ve been there.
Watching the coverage of the tragic suicide of Robin Williams this week brought back the memories of my own time of darkness many years ago. Many of you can join me in the reality that depression crosses borders of the outward markers of a successful life such as Robin had. In my case, I had a good family, good job, and all the things that would seem to indicate that life was going well. But inside, where nobody can see, I had a sense of despair that at times led to thoughts of ending my life.
The news coverage on the Robin Williams story that I have seen, when they go past the basics of his suicide, has talked about the widespread incidence of depression, the need to take it seriously, and the availability of resources such as the Suicide Prevention Hotline. NBC News last night gave a thumbnail description regarding the difference between “the blues” and clinical depression. Helpful information to be sure.
What is not being talked about in the media (that I’ve seen) is what part the faith community can/should play regarding this very serious mental health issue. And perhaps we can’t expect that in our secular society. However within our church, within our small groups, within our families...we should be considering what the Lord would have us to do to be a part of His plan to reach those who are in mental anguish. Depression is one of a number of mental health conditions that exist all around us every day. How do we respond with God’s grace and love toward those who are suffering, many times in silence?
This fall we will be offering a new short-term small group opportunity that is specifically designed with curriculum (Troubled Minds: Responding to Mental Illness) that addresses how we as Christians can be a part of coming alongside these people...showing them God’s love. This group is being led by Shirley Ruth French at her home in Erie. Shirley has worked in the mental health field in our area for many years. She has a heart for not only helping these people from a clinical perspective, but in relational, faith-based ways that help them to connect with the God who created and loves them. I am hopeful that a number of people will elect to join her on this six-week journey of discovery...learning what God’s Word has to say about this subject. And then...prayerfully seeking how they can be a part of extending His encouraging touch to people in need.
So how did I escape my depression? God’s grace. I had been attending church at that time in my life (not McLane), but did not yet have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I didn’t even know if God was real. But in what can only be seen as God calling me to Himself (His prevenient grace), I felt I needed to seek His help with this situation. So I walked up to the altar and called upon Him. He answered, lifting me out of the pit of despair that I had been living in, and setting me on a journey of discovery that has been the highlight of my life. I know God doesn’t answer everyone’s prayer in this way. But that is my story, and I love to lift up God’s Name as my Healer and give Him the glory that He deserves.
The world around us needs what God has to offer them. Those dealing with mental health issues perhaps even more-so. They are not hearing that message from the culture and the media that we are immersed in. They need to hear it from the Church. And that means they need to hear it from you and from me. How can you (and how can I) offer a word of hope to someone who needs God’s touch this week?
I hope you will take time in your small group and in your family to talk about this, and pray for God to help you see what part you can play.
Feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts...