Depression: No Blame No Shame No Stigma

Depression: no blame, no shame, no stigma. The more we know about depression the less we judge people who suffer from this illness. The world grieves at the loss of a famous actor and comedian Robin Williams at age 63. Apparently he suffered from both addiction and depression causing his ultimate passing from suicide. Although he did get treatment for his illness, the disease took over. His legacy of bringing laughter and healing to the world will live on through his career.

What good could come out of this?

One thing people all over the world are doing right now — they are talking on social media. People talk about his great legacy and about his life. All kinds of people have something to say…both the celebrities and the common people have felt shocked and saddened by the loss of Williams. The topic of depression and substance abuse has been brought to the forefront.

Everyone, especially family members and friends, are reminded about any mental health issue in the family. But more often, even those close to someone suffering don’t know because the symptoms are not easily identifiable  and often hidden. Apparently those close to Williams did not see it even when he talked about it.

What are people saying?

Some say that depression is in the mind and that people should just rise up and get over it. Others say it’s selfish to take one’s life. Research shows that one in seven suffer from some kind of mental illness. There should be no blame or shame, and the stigma must be removed through educating the public.

Photo credit Stuart Miles via freedigitalphotos.net
Photo credit Stuart Miles via freedigitalphotos.net

Untreated depression is a serious disease, and when mixed with substance abuse it could be fatal. We need more awareness to the complexity of the disease. Police officers who confront mental illness on a regular basis need more training about it to prevent accidents due to lack of understanding. The 18-year-old on the Toronto city bus who was killed by police bullets could have been avoided.

People suffering from physical disfiguration can be seen by others, but when it’s in the brain it’s  mostly invisible until behaviour becomes crazy or otherwise noticeable. A physical illness is easier to understand but depression is more difficult to comprehend unless we’ve seen it close hand.

What could others do to prevent tragic endings?

Pray. Be close. Be a friend. Know the symptoms. Understand more. Show compassion. Spread the word. Remove the stigma by talking about it. Do something, anything, to help.

(An excellent post by August McLaughlin on When Depression Strikes: 5 Ways to Cultivate Hope and Healing gives insightful information about depression.)

After doing all this, and tragedy happens, believe that it’s not your fault, and don’t blame the loved one. We don’t know all that went on in the mind at the moment. Only God knows. We grieve, but we live on and in time the pain lessens. One day you realize you are healed, but the memory is never forgotten. (my experience)

Christians have too many pat answers to complex issues like depression. Is it a mental illness or not? I used to think ‘why don’t they just stop acting so sad’ and say ‘the joy of the Lord is my strength’ and get on with life! How uninformed when it comes to depression?

My sister’s life and death.

I had no idea until suicide took my sister at the young age of 34. Because she lived far away and had a successful career as a nurse I had little knowledge about her mental state. I should have been there, but I wasn’t, even when her life seemed dangerously stressful. Seeing a few hints that something was terribly wrong a few months before her death, we tried to encourage her to come home but she had a mind of her own. She ended up coming home in a casket instead!

Sad. Shocking. Unbelievable.

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Some people are quick to judge and say that the person is selfish or wants to punish. Not true. My sister loved God but life had become too unbearable in her own mind. As a person of great compassion for others she loved her chosen occupation of caring for others, but could not care for herself and wouldn’t let others care for her.

Depression does not discriminate.

It can happen to anybody whether Christian or not at any time. The sad thing was that when this happened Christians did not understand and made us feel worse than we already were. Some even condemned her to hell because she killed herself. But God gave us confirmation from the Word that my sister made it to heaven.

But if your work is burned up, then you will lose it; but you yourself will be saved, as if you had escaped through the fire.  (1Cor 3:15 GNT)

Sometimes it’s better not to say anything and just be there. Ann Voskamp’s blog What the Church & Christians Need to Know about Mental Health and Suicide enlightened my heart.

Talking about depression and the issues that go along with it is healing for me personally as I grew up in an era where talking about hard issues was not done. Allowing for emotions such as anger, guilt, shame and blame is part of the grieving process, even when the loss of a loved one happened long ago.

Photo credit David Casillo Dominici via freedigitalphotos.net
Photo credit David Casillo Dominici via freedigitalphotos.net

I still remember Irma as a beautiful and intelligent young woman who could have helped so many. In spite of the decades that have passed, she is in my thoughts, especially now as the world mourns the loss of an actor who brought so much happiness to others.

Here is a beautiful song called Lullaby by Nickeback. There is Someone reaching out to help.

Depression hurts, but there is help available, both medically and spiritually. God brings comfort to those who mourn. May He bring peace to the family and friends of Robin Williams in their hour of need.

God blesses those people who grieve. They will find comfort! (Matthew 5:4 CEV)

If you or anyone else suffers please ask for help.

What are your thoughts on depression? What are some ways to cope with grief?

 

10 thoughts on “Depression: No Blame No Shame No Stigma

  1. Eeva

    Wow, great post Pirkko! Very insightful and from the heart. Thank you for raising awareness by opening up about your personal story! A post like this can change a life by getting people to talk about it. Blessings to you!

  2. Karen McFarland

    Thank you for sharing this information Pirkko. You’re right. It is a touchy subject. And I’m so sorry for the loss of your sister. Depression, when it involves a loved one, is a deep wound. I’m glad to hear you are healing from the aftermath. Your post was inspiring. 🙂

    1. Pirkko Rytkonen Post author

      Even though it happened decades ago, the scars and memories remain. My wish is that this story will inspire others and bring hope and healing. I have forgiven my sister and anyone else for lack of sensitivity and understanding about depression and suicide.

  3. Sandy

    Thank you, Pirkko, for sharing such a difficult time from your past.
    I’ve heard some (uneducated) say, like you mentioned – just go home and
    get better of suck it up or…but I remember hearing Dr. Grant Mullen say – you might
    as well tell them to go home and grow taller – it’s just as difficult.
    We still know so little about the battle of the mind, but more media, education and prayer
    should help. Blessings!

  4. Pirkko Rytkonen Post author

    Thank you Kassandra for reading my story. It’s not easy to share such pain even though it’s from a long ago, but my hope is that it would help someone else.

  5. August McLaughlin

    Such an insightful post, Pirkko! I’m so sorry that you lost your sister to this dark disease. It’s indeed sad when others just or criticize one who struggles or loses her battle, which only pours salt in the wounds of everyone affected. Deepened understanding is so important, and this post helps make that happen. Thank you.

    1. Pirkko Rytkonen Post author

      Thank you August for reading my post on such a painful topic. Yes, my goal is to bring deeper understanding about this disease, and I base it on my own suffering from which I’ve healed so it’s easier to talk about it now.

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