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.