Why Matt Walsh doesn’t know jack about depression & should just be quiet.

When I read about Robin Williams’ terribly sad death from suicide yesterday, my eyes welled up and my stomach hurt. Celebrity tragedies don’t normally affect me so much. But the fact that one of the funniest and most talented actors to walk this earth was overtaken by depression … it hurt. It really hurt. I, like so many others, feel very emotional about the loss of a great man by all accounts, and I am so sad for his loved ones.

But then I read Matt Walsh’s horrific click-bait, attention-seeking post about this tragedy. And I felt a different kind of emotion: Blazing anger.

If you don’t know who Matt Walsh is, I’ll explain. I don’t want to give him a single iota of traffic from my blog, so I’m not going to link to him, but I’ll explain. Matt Walsh is a hipster-looking conservative Catholic guy (which drives me INSANE because I detest that we have the same religion) who likes to write inflammatory blog posts and deems himself “a professional sayer of truths.” A male Ann Coulter or a younger Rush Limbaugh, if you will. He is judgmental, clever, scary person who is filled with a sense of superiority, tries to validate his opinions with religion, and loves to whip his followers into a frenzy. Generally, I ignore him. But this time he went too far for me to just look the other way.

Today he wrote a post called “Robin Williams didn’t die from a disease, he died from his choice” and showed his complete and utter ignorance of depression as he went on to drop some real gems, which I will excerpt here and summarily dismiss. Because Matt Walsh doesn’t know jack about depression.

Why Matt Walsh is wrong about depression and suicide:

He described suicide as: “The final refusal to see the worth in anything, or the beauty, or the reason, or the point, or the hope. The willingness to saddle your family with the pain and misery and anger that will now plague them for the rest of their lives.”

Oh. Okay. So when someone is dealing with depression that is so bad, they are suicidal, they are making a conscious choice to be selfish and leave their life on earth. They are refusing to feel happy. This is BEYOND ridiculous to assert.

Depression is a DISEASE, and when it gets as bad as it can get, that lying bastard can convince a person that the selfless choice is to leave this world and stop being a burden to their loved ones. Suicide is horrible and awful and tragic. It deeply affects the loved ones of the person who chooses it. But it is complicated, and chalking it up to simple selfishness and a refusal to choose happiness is callous and ignorant.

He posted his tweet about depression (and whined that he was told off by many people after he tweeted it): “When we talk about depression we shouldn’t pawn the whole thing off on ‘chemical imbalances.’ It’s not just clinical. It’s spiritual.” And followed it up with: “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.”

Ah, he’s pulling the religion card here. Depression is SPIRITUAL, you guys. Your soul is really the problem, says the all-knowing Matt Walsh.

Listen. I’m Catholic and I’m telling you that depression being a spiritual problem is total crap. Read the scientific literature, the clinical studies, the in-depth reports. Depression is a chronic disease that you can’t pray your way out of. Sure, positive spirituality can be an asset when a person is battling depression. But to say that depression isn’t rooted in chemical imbalances of serotonin and dopamine is flat out WRONG.

And yes, I agree that it’s not only about the chemical imbalance – depression isn’t a monolithic condition, and there are many complicated factors at play when someone is depressed. But for Matt Walsh to infer that if you are dealing with depression, you are spiritually screwed-up is a horrible and sad thing to say.

Another genius bit: “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.”

Wrong again, Matt Walsh. Ninety percent of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death. Over 60 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression. If you include alcoholics who are depressed, this figure rises to over 75 percent.

Did these people choose to have their illnesses? Were their brains working properly when they chose suicide? NO. People do not “choose” suicide. Their mental illness causes it. That does NOT mean that suicide is not preventable. It is. Absolutely. But Matt Walsh is being ridiculously simplistic in his assessment of suicide.

And this one just sent me over the edge with anger: “We can debate medication dosages and psychotherapy treatments, but, in the end, joy is the only thing that defeats depression.”

Oh, WOW. Thanks, Matt Walsh. Thanks for letting me know that I can simply choose joy instead of choosing to be depressed! How enlightening. How simple. I should just choose joy because THAT is what defeats depression.

This is such a misguided, dangerous thing to say and perpetuates the myth that depression is the fault of the depressed. Depression is not a choice, and if a person is depressed she cannot be blamed for not choosing to be happy. Good Lord, if I could choose to always feel as good as I do right now (my depression is in “remission,” as I phrase it), you’d better believe I would choose happiness in an INSTANT. I deeply resent Matt Walsh for inferring that when I’m depressed, it’s all my fault. What an awful, unkind thing to say.

So basically, Matt Walsh should stop spouting his dangerous nonsense.

Not only is Matt Walsh blatantly wrong about depression and suicide, but he is dangerously wrong. By spouting such ignorant crap, he is doing a scary disservice to his readers who may suffer from depression and/or addiction. If he was a REAL Catholic he’d understand that our (supposedly) shared religion is all about love, compassion, and kindness. And he would harness that love to offer comfort, support, and resources to his readers who may be thinking to themselves, “If Robin Williams had so much and was beloved by so many, and he couldn’t beat depression, how can I?” (And Matt Walsh would offer his condolences to Robin’s loved ones. Shame on him for not doing so on top of writing a horrific blog post.)

Well, since Matt Walsh wouldn’t say it to you, I will. To all you who are struggling, know this:

There is hope and light to be found when you have depression.

You can – and most likely will – get better. Depression is among the most treatable of psychiatric illnesses. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of people with depression respond positively to treatment, and almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms. But first, depression has to be recognized. This means if you are dealing with depression you must get help.

Maybe you are a mom who seemingly has it all and wonders why you are so sad and down and hopeless. Or maybe you’re a woman who has lived a hard life and is wondering if it’s worth it to keep going. Let me tell you, it is worth it to keep going. To get help. To live.

I have never considered suicide, but I have been in a dark place in which I thought my family would be better if I just ran away. That was depression lying to me. Those thoughts were wrong and untrue – and if you’re having them, know that they are wrong and untrue for you, too.

You are not alone. I repeat: You are NOT alone. So many everyday people – so many moms – deal with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. There is no shame in it. Don’t believe me? Check out this post of mine in which I write about the everyday faces of depression. Read about how low I was feeling last year, and know I am doing great now. I am proof positive that you, too, can successfully manage your depression.

So please know that depression lies and if it’s telling you that you are worthless and terrible and awful, it’s not true. It’s simply not. Call your doctor tomorrow and make an appointment to get help. Do your research and explore different treatments for depression, including medication, holistic approaches, therapy, supplements, and a healthy lifestyle. If you are religious, you many want to talk to your spiritual advisor for encouragement.

If you very low and are struggling with thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

If you know someone who may be depressed, here are my thoughts on how to help a depressed friend, which also has links to resources.

If you know someone who may be thinking about suicide, read this excellent post from my old friend Jodi Aman, who is an amazing holistic counselor and coach.

Finally, if you are a mom who deals with depression, anxiety, or other mental illness, contact me on Facebook by friending me here and then sending me a message. Ask me to add you to a private Facebook group I have that is all about mental health support. Since it is private, no one can see that it exists, see what you post, or know that you are in it. You will see you are not alone and find a wonderful community there.

Peace to you all, God Bless Robin, and for the love of all that is holy – don’t listen to Matt Walsh.

Why Matt Walsh is dangerously wrong about Robin Williams, depression, and suicide

All statistics from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

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39 Replies to “Why Matt Walsh doesn’t know jack about depression & should just be quiet.”

  1. I’m Anglican, not Catholic, yet I follow Matt Walsh AND I suffer from depression. I chose to put the knife away instead of sinking it into my wrists. Oh believe me, my skin was pierced. Blood was spilt. But only enough to shake me awake, so I did not complete the task.

    I think Matt’s post lacks the compassion for those who suffer depression. Reading it, I see a person who’s never touched that kind of darkness. But, I think your reply lacks grace, especially as a fellow Christian. He has valid points yet lacks empathy.

    Robin Williams’ passing is the first celeb that I actually mourn. I truly believe that God is already redeeming (dare I be so bold) his tragic death by bringing awareness to depression and the deep. dark. hold. it takes on the sufferer.

    I know how incredibly blessed I am to have been stopped in my attempts. Already I’m in tears as I’m summoned back to that dark place, that’s still not healed that almost brought me to my end. It was my choice. I chose it. I was just more fortunate than Robin and for some reason was woken to stop myself. It was a simple twist of fate to not complete the deed.

    I am choosing to be thankful to you AND Matt for bringing light to depression. My wish is for grace, joy, love and, especially, HOPE, to dominate our conversations. Those facing depression need HOPE more than criticism, more than judgment and condemnation. Hope brings love. And love. Love is all any of us want.

    “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:13).

    1. I don’t see how Matt Walsh’s article lacks empathy. He repeatedly points out the tragedy of suicide and makes the case that it is a bigger tragedy if looked at any other way. We must never glorify or sympathize with a suicide victim’s “choice”. True empathy isn’t about telling people what they want to hear. Our children would never make it to adult hood if we raised them that way.

  2. Oh how many Masses I cried through because I hurt so much inside. Depression is no different than diabetes, thyroid conditions, migraines, or other medical issues. It's easy to sit in the cheap seats and be a critic, never being involved in the action.

  3. Thank you for sharing facts about depression, not ignorant sound bytes. Thank you for sharing so many helpful resources.

    I’m grateful for your support and advocacy for those of us suffering from depression.

  4. When I attempted suicide, it was a conscious choice AND I was depressed. It was like flying an airplane and the plane was out of control and I could not regain control of it, so I chose to bail out. My life was out of control and I could not regain control of it. In Robin Williams case, he fought addiction, which is something one is not in control of.

    Why was he addicted and depressed? I have been a non professional comic of sorts and love to tell jokes and make people laugh. The more anger and rage I am dealing with, the more I tend to tell jokes and when I am not in that hostile state of mind, it is almost impossible to tell jokes. So, with that said, it could very well be that his comical was of life was an escape from his anger and rage (just an educated guess).

    I also found that judgment or self judgment causes depression and its sister, bi-polar manic depression. Make a good judgment and one is manic. Make a bad judgment and one is depressed.

    Saying Robin was a great actor and comic is an understatement. What made him that great may have been partially what made him have a compulsive addictive person and, in the end, take his own life.

    What really upset me is how he took his life. Choking to death is so painful and terrorizing. Getting drugs is so easy these days and one could take some pills and die painlessly. Something had ot come over him as it is obvious that he did not plan his death.


  5. What's the point in encouraging people with depression if it is only clinical? Why tell them to live if they don't have a choice? How can you denounce what Matt admittedly un-tactfully posted and then turn around and then tell people not to choose suicide just as he did. How condemning you are of people who are suicidal if, as you say, they do not have a choice. You seem much more dangerous then someone who says that they DO have a choice. Furthermore, he is right, joy is the antithesis to depression. He didn't say it was the cure.

  6. I suppose, in rereading, that he does make it sound like joy is the cure. This isn't exactly something I can agree with per say but I do think that we should try to create joy in our lives in order to conquer depression..

  7. I, too, am Catholic, but cannot believe that Matt Walsh is using this as some sort of propaganda. I never truly had full blown depression, but have had friends and family members, too who have had it and I agree it is real and it not brought on by being spiritually screwed up. And you are so right here about what are religion is about and it is not this by any means. I honestly tried to stay away from much of this yesterday and wait until all the facts about Robin’s death came out, because people are usually quick to jump to conclusions and right away post on Facebook and other social media their two cents, but huge thank you for bringing light to this. Also, thank you for always being so open and giving to others who may be or indeed suffering from depression.

    1. As a Catholic, I am thankful to have a reasonable voice like Matt Walsh tell it like it is. Yes, depression is a tragedy, but suicide is a far bigger tragedy, not just for one, but for many. The media sympathized, glorified and made it sound to other depressed people as though he took the only way out possible. Matt Walsh said, no.. Killing yourself is not hope. Only life offers hope. You don’t have to choose what Williams chose. Whether you are depressed or not, you don’t have to condone the ‘choice’ that he made.

      There is hope. You have a choice. Choose life.

    1. For the severely depressed, their greatest hope lies in the fact that they can choose not to kill themselves no matter how bad they are struggling. I have not seen one Matt Walsh opponent address this simple fact which is the theme of his entire article. To look at suicide any other way is to embrace darkness.

  8. Gavin Ely like so many people, you confusion the emotion of depression with the disease of depression. They are both real, but very different. It's like comparing the emotion of heartbreak because you lost someone you love, to heart disease or having a heart attack. Feeling joy may really be opposite of feeling depressed in the sense of feeling sad. But having the disease of depression does not mean you simply feel really, really sad. Depression-the-disease is not an emotion, though it may manifest in emotions such hopelessness, irritability, or anger…or the inability to feel anything. A person with depression cannot will themselves to feel joy any more than a person with heart disease can will away the hardening of their arteries. Yes, people always have choices, but please try to understand that joy is NOT the antithesis of depression-the-disease any more than it's the antithesis of cancer. I wish we could have two separate words for the feeling and the disease…it would make things so much easier.

  9. This times a million. Thank you for saying it so perfectly. You know what…your post at the end of the day will help far more people that stupid Matt Walsh. What happened to Robin Williams is a tragedy, and I would say the same thing if he died from cancer. If only life were as simple as Matt Walsh wishes it were. But it isn’t. And we all know that. Shame he doesn’t.-Ashley

  10. I read that column and I was appalled. I consider myself a deeply spiritual person, who strives to find the joy in everything, yet depression caused me to spend several years on Paxil trying to find that joy again. Its been a number of years now, but I know it can return (My doctor says if the feelings continue non stop for more that a few days to call her.)

    The last few days I have thought about all the hilariously funny people I have met in the blogging world, and how many of them have grappled with or still grapple with depression issues. So many have written deeply heartfelt pieces like yours. Mean spirited jerks with agendas like Matt Walsh and Rush LImbaugh should just shut up.

  11. Not that I agree with what Matt was saying at all, but I’d like to point out what I BELIEVE to be his idea regarding “people don’t die of depression”. In a logical sense, no, people do not die from the imbalances in the brain. You can technically live your whole life this way, it – itself, will not kill you. And I’m not saying that depression is a choice or that killing yourself is a choice per se, but in the end, what kills you in a suicide is your own self, by your own hand. Depression may be the underlying cause, yes. So, as being completely emotionless and analytical about it. He’s still a pompous, arrogant ass, none the less.

  12. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU.

    The absurdity of Matt Walsh made me want to scream and kick his teeth out while wearing steel-toed boots. As a sufferer of mild depression his post was indeed dangerous. Whether mild or severe, depression is so very real for many of us every fricken day. We don’t have a choice at all times. I can’t wake up and easily make the decision to be happy. Sure I can make that my intent but one small trigger can set me off and it takes time to return to a more stable mood.

    I wish I could have compassion and understanding for Walsh but he has none for anyone but himself. He’s an angry, bitter man who is hiding behind his religion as a justification for his nonsense. If you want people to have faith and feel God’s love, preach happiness and love, not hate. Period.

  13. I believe the key to your post is when you said Matt Walsh is a male Anne Coulter or younger Rush Limbaugh. That pretty much sums it up why people with brains and who — — — USE them should NOT listen to Matt Walsh. It’s infuriating how people don’t have the sensitivity and compassion when dealing with this issue (depression, suicide, loss/grief) when you’d think it’s commonsense. I’m also tired of ‘gurus’ attributing everything to mindset / perspective. Though sometimes it’s true and does help, we can’t assume that a change in mindset (e.g. ‘choosing joy’) is a cure-all. Thanks for being a voice of reason! (and thanks too for showing that not all Catholics are insane conservatives. I’m Catholic as well).

  14. You just used his popularity to bring traffic to your blog. If you didn't just skim his blog you'd realize you're the hypocrite you proclaim him to be.

    1. Sarah, if you read this blog regularly, you would know that depression is a regular topic here. So, that accusation is unfounded and untrue.

  15. Thank you, JD. His logic is the equivalent of blaming a person with Alzheimer’s for wandering off in the winter and freezing to death. To suggest a disease of the brain has no influence on our discretion is as careless as it is asinine.

  16. I know, Sarah. I wish she had cited facts, like statistics from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Oh wait.

  17. Actually Janel, I was referring to JDs lack of facts as to why I'm "wrong on all accounts." Also, If she hadn't spent the first few paragraphs demonizing Walsh and simply being hateful (which is what she claims HE is) then maybe I'd have given her a lil more credibility. But when you attack another person in the same manner that you're accusing the other person of implementing, you're just a hypocrite. Hence my point; she used his blog to gain her own traffic.

  18. Sarah Killeen Poulin People who actually suffer from the disease don't need "facts" from any outside source. We live the life and people who need "facts" obviously don't understand it at all. Her facts come from personal experience that others of us recognize as true. It is folks that need facts that keep making it more difficult for those of us who have the disease. What is it that JD says that you don't believe and need proof?

  19. Y'all don't know how to read. You have no foundation to point if all you say is "you're wrong" and have no reasons why. That's what I'm referring to as facts. And don't be so quick to judge whom you think does or doesn't suffer; you have no idea.

    JD said nothing of substance so you're right; I need no proof.

  20. I don't understand why you having never been suicidal, or helping countless people out of being suicidal feel you have any more right than Walsh to speak intelligently on the matter. Being someone who has been suicidal and helped people out of wanting to commit suicide I can tell you that it absolutely is a choice. That doesn't mean the person feels in control at the moment, and it doesn't mean their pain or suffering aren't very real. Realizing you are in control of how you feel does not magically make depression go away, but it is the first and most important step to overcoming it. It is the beginning to a long battle to overcome it. Maybe Walsh implied it was simple and it is not, but I personally don't believe he was saying it was simple. He was just saying that you are in control, and that is an important thing to have someone who is suicidal or depressed to realize. They need to be built up and encouraged (like you eventually do in your article which is intellectually dishonest if you believe it is beyond your control). If it is a desease than it wouldn't matter if you encourage the person or call them trash and belittle them everyday because it is biological not emotional. If it is emotional abuse and depression would be linked (they are), If it was emotional mourning and depression would be linked (they are), I could go on forever, but the point is depression is never beyond your control no matter how difficult the battle may be keep fighting because you can win, you can beat the beast of depression

  21. Jennifer Pugh O'Connor As someone who has been suicidal and gone through depression and known many who have as well and been helped out of depression and as someone that has lost loved ones to cancer I think it is absolutely offensive, insensitive and ignorant to compare depression to cancer. It is offensive to those who have cancer and it is completely damaging to those who have depression saying they can not do anything about their depression that is enabling depression instead of encouraging and equipping people who are struggling

  22. Disagree with Matt and you might as well tell suicidal people they have no hope at all. Matt Walsh is simply offering the message of hope to those who are suicidally depressed: You do have a choice. It doesn't have to end up in death. Choose life. I am also Catholic and in 100% agreement with Walsh on this matter. It is common sense. It is light. It is hope. It is life.

  23. Saying you can pray away depression is like saying you can pray away cancer.. Depression is a disease of the brain just like cancer is a disease of the liver or breast… That’s what people don’t understand.. We get treatment when we have cancer.. Well depression needs treatment!

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