How can such a funny man be in so much pain that he takes his life? Humor is no substitute for hope. With the death of Robin Williams in the news, it raises many thoughts and questions. Why does someone who seems to have so much, take his life? How does someone get to the point where suicide seems like a valid option? Was it because of his fame or in spite of his fame? How can I know I’m ok? How can I know those around me are ok?
I’m not going to try to address the broad subject and complexities of mental or emotional illness; nor will this be a detailed study on depression or addiction. Rather I want to address the issue of hope. Hope is what holds each of us steady through the storms of life and the unpredictable roller coaster of emotions that accompanies life. All of which is certainly impacted by things like clinical or chemical depression, bipolar disorder, or substance abuse. Such disorders need professional help and, at times, medication; and always needs monitoring; but hope, or the absence of hope, is something all of us need to assess on an ongoing basis.
There are the temporary times where any of us can feel hopeless and at such times we can feel like we want to quit, find a way out, or even believe our hopeless state has become a burden to those around us. At times like these we can have suicidal thoughts without the intent of carrying it out. For most, this hopelessness passes and we get through the circumstances relatively intact; but when hopeless won’t let go, when we can’t seem to find something to hope in or a reason to press through, the situation becomes much different and we need to seek help quickly. The thoughts of suicide can begin to truly look like a way out; a relief to myself and a relief to those who have had to put up my hopeless battle.
I have counseled people who lost touch with hope in such a deep way that I try to express my hope for them and ask them to hold onto my hope until they find some hope of there own. Going it alone is a recipe for disaster. Our perspective is clouded. Our thinking gets skewed. What seems obvious to others is not so clear to self in the pit of hopelessness. All of us can help direct the person to reasons to live and reasons to have hope; to talk about what brings hope and to listen compassionately to what their hopelessness feels like to them - without judgement or feeding them cliches. The thought that they “just need to pull it together” or telling them “it’s not that bad, you know things will get better” are just not helpful. To the person in despair, the world doesn’t look like it does to you or I. Being sensitive to that can open the door to hold their hand and slowly walk them back to that place of hope.
It can be frustrating and can require patience, but it can also be very rewarding to know that you have helped someone out of this dead end valley of despair. Of course, faith in the God of hope is valuable beyond words, both for the person in despair and the one trying to help them. God gives us wisdom, empathy, compassion and grace; but faith in God alone is no guarantee. It seems from biographical information that Robin Williams had faith in God. Others I have known had faith in God but also took their own life. The key is, does my faith in God translate into hope for this life, here and now?
I urge you to not participate in conversations that judge Robin Williams because “he had it all and should have known better” or that “he was just a loser substance abuser.” Those judgements miss the mark. To focus on clinical depression, bipolar, or addiction misses the bigger issue that impacts the majority of us in some way or another. He was a hurting man who, against all logic, lost his hope and felt there was only one way out of the vortex pulling him deeper into the pit of despair; only one way to make the pain end for good. How sad and tragic; and yet that pit is closer than we think to many of us and those around us. Look for hope. Share hope. Hold onto hope. Never belittle or look beyond those who sound like hope is slipping through their fingers. Instead reach out to them, put their arm over your shoulder and walk them to sources where hope can be restored. Good, faith based Christian counseling can be one of those sources.
May the God of hope bless you.
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The purpose of this blog is to give helpful insights into issues, themes and situations that hinder living in fullness of life. Posted from newest to oldest, they cover a variety of subjects. Browse by scrolling through the articles or using the Archive. The 1st post "Greetings" is an introduction to this blog. More about Abundant Life Services can be found via the link to the website. Please feel free to comment if you would like or submit ideas for future posts.