Friday, August 15, 2014

The Selfishness of Suicide and the “Depression Excuse” Industry

Well known comedian/actor Robin Williams committed suicide this past week. What he did was a selfish act, one of passive violence toward the rest of society, his family and friends particularly and in the least, indirectly toward God. This is not a personal comment or condemnation, it is a general one, with respect to the nature of the act when anyone commits it, always aware of course, that rules have their exceptions which is just what an exception is, something uncommon, exceptional.

However, in this case, among the public and unfortunately among Christians, we have a cacophony of voices all decrying the stranger called “depression” and its predatory work in making victims of its owners, so much so that we must come to understand the murder of one’s self with couched terms and at times, simply that of a victim and not as the perpetrator. The overwhelming calls are for more understanding because no one understands depression like the depressed and ultimately because depression, after all and don’t you know, is a mental illness.

Depression is a Mental Illness?

Referring to depression as a mental illness is like referring to a gardener as someone who takes pleasure in mutilating plants. It is misleading, at best. 

The term “mental-illness” is broad and in my opinion, over-used. But in this case, or should I say in the case of the cult of "depression victimization" where victimology is alive and well and the first place depressed people are taught to run as a way of viewing their depression and subsequent moods/actions, mental illness is an escape clause, a liberty pass or a way to not take responsibility for one’s actions.


The reason is because when we talk about mental illness, in general and without clearly defined parameters, we normally assume an inability to make healthy and appropriate distinctions about right and wrong. Unfortunately, this assumption is simply carried into or imposed onto any actions a depressed person may take, without discretion.

In other words, when a known depressed person acts in an inappropriate manner, he or she will often refer back to their depression as the cause of their poor decision and action(s) as though they cannot be responsible for them due to this infliction of darkness in their life. And typically he or she will have commiserates who echo such thoughts as well as many other sympathizers.

However, in truth, rarely does depression lead a person to the kind of mental dysfunction which disables their ability to distinguish right from wrong. Hence, their culpability is not removed.

Mental illnesses which disaffect sound cognition will be accompanied by a life which is maladjusted to the norms of a morally and ethically reasonable society. In other words, they will not be able to function in society in any cultivated manner. They will not be aware of normal values. They usually cannot hold down jobs because timeliness has no reference outside of their impulses. As well, they must have some kind of guardianship. Along with this you will discover the inability to become self-organized so that they can own and maintain property which exceeds their carrying capacity. They are itinerant in their style of living due to their disorientation to social structures. 

These are classic symptoms of genuine mental illness. That is, their mental faculties have a true disruption which impair rational abilities and value assignment. Retardation is a mental illness. Psychosis is a mental illness which normally is qualified by hallucinations and extra-ordinary delusions but even then those with some forms of psychosis are not rendered incapacitated regarding understanding their actions and being liable for them.

Depression is a Mood Disorder

Under the umbrella of mental illness we have what are considered mood disorders by mental health professionals. This does not mean it will not have an effect on our thinking but it does mean that it does not originate with our thinking. That is to say, it does not render us too incompetent to function in a manner which understands right from wrong, unlike psychosis or mental retardation.

Now, it is true that some mood affects are so strong that they discourage normal function and when someone experiences depression at a magnitude so great sometimes they simply “drop out” of society and isolate themselves in their depressed state. And it is true that they are making decisions influenced by their depression. However, they, very most often, can tell you that they need help and what they are doing is neither constructive nor healthy, rather that they simply cannot give themselves the shove they need.

This is critical to understanding depression. It is not a cognitive attack. It is a disaffection of the mood and/or emotions. 

Cultivated Lives and Depression as an Excuse

As I said earlier, depression is the club of supreme victimization wielded on the heads of society in general and often on the heads of friends and family, specifically, in defending misbehavior by depressed people. “You just don’t understanding depression, especially my depression”, is the mantra. “You lack compassion and are judgmental”, it is said. “How dare you speak of what you do not know?”, it is chimed.

These are all forms of posturing and crusading. It is arrogance in a bright color as if people who don’t experience something cannot understand it. Poppycock. This is precisely why we observe, study, take notes and test theories, so that we can understand something apart from ourselves. In fact, what a small world such victims of depression demand of us all; that we only speak of what we have experienced first hand. Talk about no advancement in civilization!

Most people suffering from depression who ultimately murder themselves, i.e. commit suicide, do so in the midst of a rather normally cultivated life in which social and even biblical norms and standards are observed and by which their lives abide. They know right from wrong.

Day in and day out and unlike those whose mental illness causes them disorientation toward reality whereby they cannot discern right from wrong, most people who suffer from depression do not have this dilemma. Rather, the large remaining portion of their lives clearly manifest the ability to achieve, to acquire, to maintain and to function in society because they understand its nuances and rules.

Consequently they do understand right from wrong on many levels, not just on elementary ones, thus depression is not a valid excuse for misbehavior.

Problems with Others vs. Problems with Self

Imagine if Robin Williams had a problem (non-life-threatening, of course) with another person that was contributing to a depressed state and he chose to murder that person. Would society be telling us to be understanding because he was depressed? Would we be talking about how it is the fault of depression and how we all must get a better grip on its perpetration upon society so that depressed people can get treatment and not murder? Unfortunately, maybe in some places (I recall the sympathy that Saturday Night Live member Phil Hartman’s murderer was given, his then wife, after she had murdered him and then murdered herself) but by and large, no. He would be seem as someone who selfishly perpetrated a heinous crime, the ultimate crime, of taking another person’s life, homicide.

Why is it then, we so often fail to make clear the utter selfishness and narcissism of self-murder or suicide? Why can we not see its villainous nature, its passive violence on others and its illiberal nature? Yes, most often its perpetrators know exactly what they are doing and do know the pain they will leave behind.

Are they in pain and do they want relief from their pain? Indeed they do and that is not unreasonable. But just as we do not murder others in order to make difficult relationships which contribute to depressed states go away, hence the problem, we must view suicide as the same kind of selfishness yet this time, if any time, we are in total control (no other person involved as a variable) and have less excuse.

We are afraid because of Suicide's Collateral Victims

Thoughtfulness toward to collateral victims of suicide, family and friends, generally keeps us from speaking directly about the matter. And just for the record, I don’t know the details of Mr. Williams’ situation so I am not addressing it personally or with respect to its issues, I am speaking generally and to the principal ideas. Thus, when suicide occurs we soften our language so as to not appear insensitive to its victims who are grieving.

What must be said?

However, there is a time to speak and as I said I am speaking to no one situation or person directly or personally. If you believe you suffer from depression you have an obligation to confront your mood disorder and live with it like everyone else lives and pushes through their challenges. If you believe you need medication and/or therapy to treat it, do it. 

However, you also have an obligation to not seek it as an excuse or liberty pass to engage in inappropriate behavior. God gives no such relief. You retain your ability to know right from wrong and are without excuse.

Is it hard? Yes, so is being a paraplegic, worse a quadriplegic.
Further, you have a duty, - a responsibility - to live a life filled with commitments to God, yourself and others. You have roles which God intended for you to perform based on his principles, that of a father or mother, sister or brother, aunt or uncle, husband or wife, single or friend, employee or employer, grandparent and good neighbor and so on. This is your life, with or without afflictions.

God never says your mood must be a good one, a positive one or a happy one. There are times it will be but if you are melancholic, if depression is often the haunting expression of the fallen Adam, you have all the more reason to live by faith. Trust in the promises of God and live as you should, not as you feel. He will reward your faithfulness, not your moods. Press on to the high calling and dare not give way to an industry and society of sentimental excuse makers.


*This essay is not written without consideration of the causes and treatment of depression. However, it is not my intention to address that segment of the issue other than to say that I recognize the various forms and/or degrees and that at times, medication along with various therapies exists as a valid treatment. However and with respect to its initial and/or ongoing causes, I believe that many people simply do not wish to deal with self-contribution by way of inappropriate thinking and past/present actions which are often major causes which go unaddressed since it would require “victims” to admit they are victims of themselves and many egos simply could not endure self-correction on this level.


Karen Kendall said...

How dare you...
When Jesus comes back, the first thing he's going to do is punch you in the face.

Alex A. Guggenheim said...

Thank you for visiting and a big, LOL. Karen, that is one of the funniest things I have read in a while.I imagine your humor could be mistaken for seriousness by the wrong person if they didn't recognize the use of the absurd as parody to make a point.

Anonymous said...

As a human who doesn't suffer from depression I do not disagree with this post. However, as a non-sufferer, it seems no one wants to hear our opinions. Good on you for speaking up anyway.

Alex A. Guggenheim said...

It does appear that many do not want to listen. And the Proverb that to correct those who do not want to listen may be like correcting a fool which results in their hatred is probably applicable. However, the truth never departs and for those who wish, at some point, to listen to corrective instruction, this will be a spring of water. Thanks for the visit and your quite valid observation.

Anonymous said...

As someone who suffers from depression this pisses me off. Let's hate on people that have constant battles in their head. Let's hate on a man who took his own life because this illness literally drove him over the edge. But yeah we should be concerned with what and old ass book says right? Unbelievable. I know where I stand with God, and although I've never reached that tipping point, I truly believe that man stands with people with this illness. But no, you keep shaming people on something like this because you're a crazy ass religious nut. I've thought I had seen it all, but today I've seen someone use Christianity as an excuse to shame people with mental illness. Unbelievable.

Alex A. Guggenheim said...

Your comment first of all assumes I do not suffer from depression. Possibly you have completely overlooked this in your hurry to condemn me.

Secondly, I was not hating on people who suffer from depression rather, I was dealing with the errant belief of depression as an acceptable excuse for suicide.

Thirdly, I did not use Christianity as any type of mechanism to attack anyone no more than an atheist is using atheism when he or she agrees with me that depression is not an excuse for suicide.

To be honest, while you may suffer from what you believe is depression from your post it appears as though it may be strongly related to an anger issue or bitterness issue which has produced the depression. And I am sympathetic to issues in someone's life which may produce lingering anger and bitterness but such things need resolved. Of course, that is merely a suggestion and not an attempt to psychoanalyze anyone.

I am not insensitive to people suffering inside of their head but such a thing is truly much more common than people imagine. It, however, is not an excuse, particularly depression, for committing suicide. That is only a plea to pity. I agree life externally and internally can be and is, tough. But we must face these things.