We don't like to talk about mental illness. It's one of those conditions that we'd prefer to sweep under the rug and pretend doesn't exist. It's easier to talk about things like cancer or diabetes - things we can see on an x-ray or verify with a blood test. Mental illness is different. It's often unseen, and like most unseen things, it can be difficult to understand.
Mental illness is just as real as cancer, only it's a disease of the unseen mind. It has the power to rob an individual of the power to properly reason and view the word. It can hold an individual captive with fear, anger, or despair.
I can understand the fear of mental illness. Cancer doesn't storm into a room with an automatic weapon. Not all mentally ill take a weapon to someone else, sometimes they suffer silently and commit violence against themselves.
That's why my heart breaks for Pastor Rick Warren and his family on the loss of their son.
“At 27 years of age, Matthew was an incredibly kind, gentle and compassionate young man whose sweet spirit was encouragement and comfort to many. Unfortunately, he also suffered from mental illness resulting in deep depression and suicidal thoughts.” - Statement from Saddleback ChurchIn a letter released to members of his congregation, Warren shared that, "“In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided. Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his life."
This side of heaven, we struggle to understand; we seek answers and someone/something to blame. I'm praying for grace and peace for Rick and Kay and their family, that God will guard their hearts and mind and quiet the voices of guilt and pain. Matthew suffered from an illness that was just as real as other illnesses that plague the body. This week, that disease claimed his life.
As a nation, we need to be made aware of the ravages of mental illness, and provide resources to individuals who suffer from not only disease, but the stigma that surrounds their illness.
If you suffer silently, I urge you to seek help. Find a licensed counselor or a doctor to provide the help and care you need. Many individuals have been able to successfully face and overcome obstacles with professional help. Help is out there.
Has your family been touched by suicide or mental illness?