A Response to Blogger Matt Walsh Regarding Depression
Before I address Matt Walsh’s post about depression specifically:
For anyone who wants to read a compassionate, balanced view about mental health problems, including depression, by a Christian author, please read a copy of the book,
Why Do Christians Shoot Their Wounded?: Helping (Not Hurting) Those with Emotional Difficulties – by Dwight L. Carlson.
Carlson is a Christian doctor who explains how much, if at all, personal sin, choice, or biology play in issues such as depression.
An excerpt from the book’s page on Amazon reads,
- It’s no sin to hurt. Thousands of Christians suffer real emotional pain– such as depression, anxiety, obsessiveness.
Many other Christians, including prominent leaders, believe emotional problems are the result of sin or bad choices. These attitudes often only add to the suffering of those who hurt.
In this book Dwight Carlson marshals recent scientific evidence that demonstrates many emotional problems are just as physical or biological as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
While he never discounts personal responsibility, Carlson shows from both the Bible and up-to-date medicine why it really is no sin to hurt.
Understandably and compellingly, Why Do Christians Shoot Their Wounded? brings profound help for those who hurt and those who counsel. For those who suffer, here is a powerful liberation from guilt. For those who care for the suffering, here is vivid proof that those in emotional pain deserve compassion, not condemnation.
MATT WALSH, ROBIN WILLIAMS, AND SUICIDE/DEPRESSION
In the day or two after it was announced that movie actor Robin Williams died by suicide, Christian blogger Matt Walsh wrote a blog post about it called “Robin Williams didn’t die from a disease, he died from his choice” (url: themattwalshblog.com). A copy of Walsh’s first post appears (Link): here on Barbwire (the link will open in a new window).
The very title of the post suggests, or assumes, that Williams was wholly in his right mind, capable of making rational decisions, and was therefore totally responsible for his own death, that he could have easily avoided his death (if only he had “chosen” joy and/or read a Bible more, etc), and, by extension, deserves no compassion.
Walsh would probably counter, “But I never specficially said he didn’t deserve compassion, or that he should just read his Bible more!”
Well, no, you didn’t say that exactly, but the wording of your blog post heading alone certainly implies it. The rambling in the post itself, which was intended to bolster the claims implied in the title, further suggests these views as well.
Walsh got so much negative feedback from that post, he wrote a follow-up post to it the other day.
I don’t know at this point if I intend on writing a full-scale rebuttal to Walsh’s post here – or, if I do, I may do it in the days or weeks ahead. I’m undecided.
I found Walsh’s commentary so revolting, I can’t bring myself to go back and re-read the piece again. Once was enough. I’ll try to re-visit the pages to grab some quotes, if I can.
I skimmed the Part 2 earlier today. Part 2 is entitled, “Depression isn’t a choice but suicide is: my detailed response to the critics”
The attitude of Walsh’s primary post was very victim-blaming, in spite of his protestations to the contrary.
Walsh evidently feels post # 1 was very loving and supportive of Robin Williams or anyone who deals with depression.
Perhaps Walsh is merely a very poor writer and failed to accurately convey his views in the first place, so that they came out as insensitive as they did, and now he’s upset so many people have taken his post the “wrong way.”
That has happened to me a time or two online – I fail to clearly explain my position on a sensitive issue, and folks take it the wrong way, and assume I’m a heartless jerk. (On the other hand, people are sometimes guilty of reading things into posts I’ve written that I never said or felt.)
If I am not mistaken, Walsh implied in part 1, and admitted in part 2 (again, I cannot bring myself at this time to re-read both to double check this) that he has had depression in the past, or some sort of problem.
Okay, I shall wade into the post again to find the exact quote. Here is what Walsh said in part 2 about his own experiences:
- I actually found myself getting emotional as I wrote it. I’m not suicidal but I have demons of my own, so I submitted that post to the public, praying others would find the same solace in the promise of hope and the power of free will.
From part 1, Walsh says,
- And before I’m accused of being someone who “doesn’t understand,” let me assure you that I have struggled with this my entire life.
I want to pause here to say I find that wording odd, from the quote from part 2. Walsh says he hopes people can find hope in “the power of free will.”
Christians usually feed depressed people the cliché’ that they can be freed of depression in “Jesus alone.”
Just as believing in Jesus alone cannot free a person from depression, neither can celebrating “free will,” or a “pick yourself up by your bootstraps and solider on” mentality.
I’d say often, a lot of people with clinical depression operate under one or both those paradigms for years to start with anyway, along with psychiatric visits or medications, until they realize none of it is working, they get mentally exhausted and want to stop fighting to live.
It is exhausting to live another day when all you want to do is stay in bed all day long with the sheets over your head, or take your own life.
That is, people with depression already have tried to “choose joy” and so on; they don’t need a Matt Walsh telling them to give that a go.
Having severe depression is not an automatic death sentence. There can be a way out, but it might vary from one person to the next.
But the vast majority of people I’ve seen who have made it through depression and lived to tell about it usually do not credit their survival with pure choice (ie, choosing to be joyful), Bible reading, attending church, or Jesus alone.
As a matter of fact, many of these recovering folks will tell you that one thing that made their journey MORE difficult was receiving well intentioned, yet hurtful advice, such as the very things Walsh was writing about and which is common among Christians: believe more in Jesus, attend church, choose to be joyful, etc.
MY EXPERIENCES WITH DEPRESSION
I myself was diagnosed with clinical depression by psychatrists as a child, and underwent periodic psychiatric visits until my late twenties, and I also saw a smattering of pyschologists and took anti-depressant medications for years.
I also was tempted to take my own life on and off from childhood into my adult years.
By my late teens, when I realized that the Christian faith and reading the Bible did not deliver me from the depression nor was it likely to, I began reading mountains of books on the topic to seek a solution, ones by Christians and Non Christians. When the internet caught on (late 1990s), I started reading medical journals online.
I took two psychology courses while in college prior to that where I had to study depression, among other topics.
I’m not a medical doctor, but I do have more than passing familiarity with depression.
That Matt Walsh can claim he once had depression (or some condition similar to it) and yet still write the amazingly insensitive and simplistic editorial about depression that he did makes me wonder.
WELL INTENTIONED BUT NAÏVE YOUTH
On several sites where his work is published, it is stated that as of right now, 2014, Matt Walsh is 27 years old.
I suspect that is in part behind some of his attitudes and where some of these problems stem from.
I’m in my early 40s now.
I’ve been through some more life experiences than Walsh has (including the death of someone I was very close to a few years ago), and I’ve dealt with depression and how to cope with it much longer than he.
Up until about two years ago, I was 100% on-board with conservative, Baptist, evangelical Christianity. I still remain pretty right wing and socially conservative.
I kind of, to a point, understand Walsh’s mindset because I used to be similar.
However, the school of hard knocks, along with a host of unanswered prayers, biblical promises that never came to pass in my own life (that I also noticed have not worked for many other Christians either), in addition to a few other factors I shall not address here and now, have changed some of my views, or has made them more moderate.
After getting older, I realized that life, suffering, faith, God, and a host of other topics, are not quite as black and white or cut and dry as I used to find them.
Passages I used to find puzzling in the Bible now make more sense to me, because I am older and have been through more. (That might be a topic for another post.)
When you are a teen, or in your 20s, and are very idealistic, and very earnest about your Christian faith, and, if you buy into Christian propaganda from some quarters that using medications or secular (or even Christian) psychiatry is wrong because it’s “worldly” and belies a lack of faith or trust in God, it’s easy to write simplistic blog posts about suffering, such as the one Walsh wrote about Williams, depression, and suicide.
I know by the time I got into my twenties and was still struggling with depression (to the point I wanted to take my own life, though I had suicial ideation years before too), I felt like a spiritual failure, and preachers and Christian books and TV shows did not help, but actually made this feeling of failure worse.
Other Christians re-enforced this idea that if I was still undergoing depression, it was because – insert list of spiritual reasons here that were supposedly due to my fault –
Common “blame the depression victim” reasons from Christians include (but are not limited to):
-“You lack faith”
-“Your depression is a case of you thinking too much about yourself, stop being self absorbed and think about God more / other people more”
-“You obviously must have unconfessed sin in your life”
-“You need to be attending church every Sunday”
-“Read your Bible more / Pray more”
And yes, a time or two, I had other Christians tell me, “You can choose happiness.” I’ve heard that one before, but this was in the 1980s and up to the mid 1990s, and was years before blogging. Matt Walsh is not the first Christian person to spew that sort of rhetoric about depression.
On the flip side of that, I was told, in various Christian publications and in sermons, that seeking the help of a medical professional, such as a psychiatrist, or taking medications for depression (or anxiety) was wrong.
I was told by Christians that in dealing with depression and anxiety, that I should rely on faith alone because “Jesus was sufficient for all my needs.” I was informed that using or turning to anything or anyone other than God, Jesus, or the Bible was sinful or in error.
At some point, then, I stopped taking the medications and stopped the doctor visits. I felt that relying on anything other than God or the faith was compromise.
I decided to be a “spiritual tough guy.” I relied only on prayer, faith, and tried thinking sunny, cheery thoughts. I was going to go it alone, just God and me.
And, after a few years of that, that did not work. In desperation, I went back to the doctors and pills.
Only, the doctors and pills never helped alleviate the depression for me (though I am in no way discouraging anyone else from seeing a doctor, being tested for depression, and taking medication if need be; they might work for you).
How I finally was delivered from depression (a couple years ago), is a topic for another day and another time.
Suffice it to say here, all I will mention is that my healing did not come from doctors, medications, a special diet, “choosing” to be cheerful, trying to drum up “joy” or “find joy in the Lord,” prayer, going to church, volunteering at soup kitchens, Bible reading, or other religious beliefs or practices (including “having a relationship with Jesus,” which I already had before I turned ten years of age).
When I was 25 years old, to maybe about 30 years of age, I sincerely believed if I just trusted God more, read my Bible more, and prayed hard for a healing, that the depression would dissipate, or at least become tolerable.
And I really and truly lived those beliefs out. For several years, I read my Bible a lot (when I could; see caveats about “Bible reading” farther below), I completely turned to God and looked to God for comfort, healing, everything – but none of it helped.
Had we had blogs back when I was in my mid 20s, I could see myself back at age 25 or 26 writing a blog post similar to what Walsh wrote (remember, he is currently age 27, according to some online sources).
Had I written such a blog post when I was in my 20s, I would not have done so to be cruel or judgmental of Robin Williams, mind you, but out of a sense of determination and good intentions, thinking I was cheering on other depressed people with a, “rah rah, sis-boom-bah, hang in there and tough it out, just keep reading your Bible and hang in there, you can make it, if you choose to, just like I’ve been doing the last X years!” mentality.
Now that I’m over 40, I realize how hurtful and naïve that sort of advice or commentary comes across to other people, however. (And in the end, such practices did not help me escape depression.)
I bet in another 15 – 20 years, when Walsh has more life experience under his belt, especially if something very traumatic happens to him (ie, a death in the family of someone very close, or someone near to him has a cancer scare, something like that), he will change his positions on depression and suicide drastically – assuming he truly does care about people and the negative impact his words have had on others. He will probably feel embarrassed or saddened that he wrote what he did.
CHOICE AND DEPRESSION
Individuals who are so deeply depressed that they are at a point of wanting to take their own lives do not realize they have any other options, so it’s rather misleading for Walsh to state that “suicide is a choice.”
No, it’s not, not if the individual does not think he or she has any other choices.
In the case of someone like Robin Williams, who reportedly was seeking professional treatment in the months before his suicide, this feeling of hopelessness intensifies.
When you feel as though the emotional pain is never going to end, not even though you have been under a doctor’s care for months or years, not even with the use of anti-depressants for years, and yes, you’ve tried “choosing” to be “joyful” and all the other platitudes you’ve gotten from others in your search for relief and answers, you cannot see a way out.
Death seems a way of ending the pain – the only way.
I’ll write a little bit more about this farther below.
In his part two response to his critics, Walsh writes,
- “Not just negative: often vicious, brutal, hateful. I have been told to kill myself more times in the past few hours than I can count.
- I’ve been called every name in the book and labeled everything from “human garbage” to a “worthless piece of sh*t” to a “disgrace” to a “monster” and a “psychopath.” I’ve been told that my kids should be ashamed and my wife should leave me.
- I’ve actually had more than one person “pray” that someone in my family commits suicide. Even my wife has been targeted and harassed.”
I don’t condone people saying any of that to the guy – the parts about “I hope your family commits suicide,” and so forth (I think that is below the belt and totally uncalled for), but I understand why some of his outraged critics are writing it to him.
The reason they are writing him with such awful threats – and sadly, it’s flying over his head – is that Walsh lacks empathy on this issue.
Walsh naively thinks that by telling suicidal folks, “you have a choice!” that this, “buck up and carry on with stiff upper lip, you do not have to cave in to suicide” type philosophy will keep one of them from over-dosing on a bottle of pills tonight.
So perhaps Walsh’s heart is in the right place, but he doesn’t fully understand the mentality of someone who is contemplating taking his or her own life. (Neither does Baptist preacher Charles Stanley, and I’ve written about that in a prior post.)
When these critics tell Walsh they hope his kids commit suicide, they are trying to say that if and when depression or suidical ideation happen to him (or his wife or kids or whomever he cares about), he will maybe re-examine his shallow views on the topic and also develop empathy.
Walsh said in a Tweet (dated 12 August 2014),
Wow a million people accusing me of saying depression is a choice. Meanwhile, I never said that once. What post are people reading?
I would have to re-read his posts (something I don’t want to do), but he may be splitting hairs on this point. I do recall that he does state in his blog post that SUICIDE, not DEPRESSION, is a choice. This is somewhat dishonest of him, given that depression is what leads some people to suicide, and no, people do not “choose” to have depression. It is a distinction without much of a difference.
Walsh said (in part 2),
- I know they [his critics] didn’t read it because their objections are often wildly disconnected from the content of the post.
That could be true, but he needs to re-evaulate what he wrote and how he wrote it, given the avalanche of criticism.
If, out of the 4,000 some odd posts and Tweets he got over that one post, that 75% of them (by his own estimation; he wrote: “I’d say a good 75 percent of the hate has come from individuals who clearly did not read what I wrote”) were from people telling him he was wrong, insensitive, and that they hope he gets mauled by a grizzly bear, maybe his views are wrong, or his essay, due to a sloppy job at writing, implied a lot of things he did not mean to convey.
Disingenuously, Walsh writes,
- “Thousands of readers have accused me of saying that depression is a choice, depression is not a disease, people who commit suicide are going to hell, depressed people are weak, Robin Williams was a coward, and depressed people should just snap out of it.
I can very quickly address all of these concerns by asking you to read my original post and then come back and show me where you found these statements.”
Let’s take a look at how Walsh chose to title his first blog post again:
“Robin Williams didn’t die from a disease, he died from his choice”
Either that title implies that depression is not a disease, or else Walsh was trying to convey that one can die from a physical ailment only (such as cancer, which he would label or classify as a disease), and he then says Williams chose to die.
If “thousands of readers” are all telling you they saw the same attitudes and suggestions in your post, maybe there’s, you know, something to that.
Again, in part 2, Walsh says,
- Thousands of readers have accused me of saying that depression is a choice, depression is not a disease, people who commit suicide are going to hell, depressed people are weak, Robin Williams was a coward, and depressed people should just snap out of it
Because you did, in fact, say or imply some of those things.
Let’s review again.
Walsh wrote (in part 1),
- It’s a tragic choice, truly, but it is a choice, and we have to remember that. Your suicide doesn’t happen to you; it doesn’t attack you like cancer or descend upon you like a tornado. It is a decision made by an individual. A bad decision. Always a bad decision.
So you did in fact say depression is not a disease (or Walsh is splitting hairs on this point and is saying suicide is not a disease), and that acting on suicidal impulses caused by depression is merely a “bad decision.”
Again, considering that suicide often arises from depression, it’s quibbling with semantics to say that Williams died from suicide but not depression, and hence, in Matt Walsh logic, Williams died from choice, not from a sickness.
It may be true that not all depressed persons die from suicide, but some do.
You did in fact say several of the things in part 1 that people accused you of, but you are now saying in part 2 that their accusations are wrong, untrue, or false.
- “This all might seem pleasant enough, but have we stopped to think how it [Robin Williams is “in a better place,” he is “free,” he is “at peace,” he is “smiling down upon us,” he’s “happy.”] looks and sounds to those who may be contemplating this heinous deed themselves?
Can we tell our friend to step away from the ledge after we just spoke so glowingly of Robin Williams’ newfound “peace” and “freedom”?
This is too important a subject to be careless about. We want to say nice things, I realize, but it isn’t nice to lie about suicide.”
It’s not a lie. Robin Williams is no longer experiencing the pain caused by depression. That pain has ended for him.
That there might be some suicidal individuals who are moved to act if suicide is portrayed in a glowing manner may be true – but – people who are considering suicide want the pain to stop.
That is to say, suicidal people are not necessarily framing their form of escape in a positive, i.e., “I will be free, just like Robin Williams,” but, “I will no longer hurt, I don’t see another way out.”
- “Do you want to be uplifted? Then concentrate on this:
- Happiness and contentment are not found in our talents, our money, our luxuries, or our reputations. If wealthy, brilliant, beloved people tell us anything when they murder themselves, it must be that.
… the key to unlocking our joy isn’t hidden under a pile of money…”
Walsh misses the mark.
People with clinical depression already realize they cannot find happiness in money, fame, sex, friends.
Depressed individuals have something called Anhedonia (loss of joy).
Excerpt from one page about this topic:
- Anhedonia is the technical term for the inability to experience joy.
When people are in the depths of depression, nothing touches them, not the most intensely pleasurable activities, not the most familiar comforts. They are emotionally frozen.
In this state, people either have to get professional help or simply wait for weeks or months until the depression lifts by itself; nothing is going to make them feel better.
To try to convince depressed people that they will not find joy in money, fame, cars, or a mansion is beside the point.
Depressed people – and this is what most Christians won’t understand – will not be able to “find joy in Jesus” either.
Christians wrongly and cruelly make a sharp distinction between physical and mental ailments, nor will many conservative (ie, baptist, reformed, or fundamentalist, evangelicals) show compassion for, or offer practical assistance to, those who suffer from mental health problems.
Church members gathered on a Sunday morning service, for example, will commonly issue a church-wide prayer of something that sounds like this:
“Oh Lord, please heal Sister Becky of her in-grown toe nail; please safely take Sister Rhonda through her delivery of her twin babies she is expecting to have any week now; comfort Brother Rob with his cancer, and we ask a healing for Brother Phil, who has diabetes.”
However, Christians will rarely issue prayers of,
“Oh Lord, we ask that you heal and deliver Sister Tilly of her biploar disorder; we ask that you comfort Brother Joe that is in mourning for his aunt Martha; we ask that you heal Sister Julie of her clinical depression, and God, please deliver Sister Henrietta of her debilitating anxiety attacks.”
Getting back to the issue of choice which Walsh frequently mentioned.
Depressed people have skewed thinking. This is one reason why, in addition to taking medications, they are sometimes encouraged to undergo cognitive behavior therapy.
Not only do some of depressed people need medication, but they may need to be encouraged to, or taught how to, change their thinking processes.
Depressed people cannot make free, positive choices, not only because they perceive themselves as having very limited choices, but because they run everything through a negative filter.
If you were to pay a depressed person a compliment such as, “Hey Tim, those new shoes of yours are quite spiffy, I’d love to get a pair myself!,” Tim may think to himself, “Aw, Fred is only saying that because he’s having a great day, or he still owes me five bucks. He doesn’t REALLY think my shoes are nice.”
Here are a couple of off-site links to pages that discuss this issue:
(Link): Depression Doing the Thinking
Here’s an excerpt:
- One of the features of depression is pessimistic thinking. The negative thinking is actually the depression speaking. It’s what depression sounds like. Depression in fact manifests in negative thinking before it creates negative affect.
Most depressed people are not aware that the despair and hopelessness they feel are flowing from their negative thoughts. Thoughts are mistakenly seen as privileged, occupying a rarefied territory, immune to being affected by mood and feelings, and therefore representing some immutable truth.
- Depression puts a negative spin on everything, including the way you see yourself, the situations you encounter, and your expectations for the future.
But you can’t break out of this pessimistic mind frame by “just thinking positive.” Happy thoughts or wishful thinking won’t cut it. Rather, the trick is to replace negative thoughts with more balanced thoughts.
… Types of negative thinking that add to depression [paritial list; visit their site to see the rest]
The mental filter – Ignoring positive events and focusing on the negative. Noticing the one thing that went wrong, rather than all the things that went right.
Diminishing the positive – Coming up with reasons why positive events don’t count (“She said she had a good time on our date, but I think she was just being nice.”)
People with depression have such a tendency to think of everything in negative terms, I’m afraid telling them anything, giving advice – by telling them to “choose Joy” or “choose Jesus” isn’t going to help.
Further, depression being what it is in a Christian, causes one to feel as though ‘God is far away, God isn’t listening, God doesn’t care about me.’
It’s very, very hard to believe in what the Bible says or in concepts such as “God loves me” when one is depressed.
Walsh writes, in part 1,
- When we are depressed, we have trouble seeing joy, or feeling it, or feeling worthy of it
That is a vast, vast understatement, and the rest of Walsh’s post belies this. He shows no deep understanding or appreciation for this aspect of depression.
And who is this “we” he is writing of? He waffles on whether he’s ever had clinical depression himself or not. At one point, he implies he did, and then, in another part, he says he never did but has faced his “own demons” so he feels he has a right to opine on this topic.
BIBLE READING AND THE DEPRESSED PERSON
On a minor note: Bible reading is not often possible for a depressed person, yet Christians advise “Bible reading” to hurting (specifically depressed) people frequently.
Depressed persons have difficulty concentrating on much of anything, but especially extended reading.
If a depressed person reads the Bible, they can read the same Bible chapter 45 times in a row and still not be able to tell you what they just read.
So, reading the Bible is not a practical, doable, or workable solution for a lot of depressed people anyway.
Please stop recommending that your depressed friends “read the Bible.” They cannot read it at all, or not in large spans of pages or chapters, or not for long time periods.
Telling a depressed person to “read the Bible” as a form of help is a little like telling a guy with a hurting, throbbing, injured broken leg to go study a book on Jungian psychology.
If you are a Christian depressed person, if you are able to concentrate at all, you might get some temporary comfort from reading the laments in the book of Psalms, but Bible reading will not permanently cure you of depression.
You might get momentary relief when you read what the Pslamists wrote and realize, “Hey, other people felt just as hurt and distant from God as I do.”
You, if you are a depressed Christian, might take momentary comfort in realizing other people (in the Bible) have been where you are now – since so many American Christians these days put on their “Happy Masks” at church and shame anyone who is not similarly “happy-clappy.”
-And since there are well-meaning, yet mistaken Christian bloggers (*cough* Matt Walsh *cough*), who tell you on their blogs when you go searching online for hope and healing, “Choose to be joyful!”
WALSH RETORT: ‘SO YOU ARE TELLING DEPRESSED PEOPLE THEY DON’T HAVE A CHOICE’
One comment Walsh kept shooing at his critics that I kept seeing was, “Well, so how would YOU respond to a depressed person? Are you saying they don’t have another choice, that they HAVE to kill themselves?”
I’m afraid Walsh is misrepresenting his critics on this point. It’s not that his critics are saying that a depressed person should go ahead and take the overdose or hang themselves.
I may address this more fully in a future post – that is, how to minister to a depressed person.
But for now, I will say that if you are not a depressed person, have never been clinically depressed and contemplated suicide yourself, simply spitting out at them to “choose joy, for where joy resides, depression cannot!” is a dismissive and an ignorant (though I suppose well- intentioned) response.
Walsh ends his post by saying (among other things),
“Life. Life exists, and we are made to live it.”
Depressed people already know that, but it doesn’t compute in their minds, or, it doesn’t mean much of anything to them.
Walsh also writes,
“If you are thinking about suicide, don’t keep it inside. Tell someone.”
That is not altogether bad advice, but. However.
I would qualify that to tell a depressed person if you are thinking about taking your own life, be careful whom you confide in.
WORD OF CAUTION TO DEPRESSED, SUICIDAL INDIVIDUALS WHO MIGHT WANT TO CONFIDE IN A CHRISTIAN ABOUT IT
If you confide in certain types of Christians, they will more often than not…
1. Shame you for even considering suicide
(as in, “Oh my goodness, do you know how deeply it would hurt your family if you killed yourself?,” or, a la preacher C. Stanley, “Don’t you know that if you kill yourself, this will make a terrible witness to Non Christians about Jesus?”),
2. They will give you platitudes, ranging from secular to religious
(“When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade!,”
“All things work together for good to those who love God”
“Jesus is sufficient for all your needs”)
3. They will give you shallow, unsolicitied advice,
(ie, “Read the Bible! Go to church more!”
“Turn it over to Jesus”
“Replace the frown with a smile”
“Replace that depression with joy”)
4. They will engage in other forms of shaming
(ie, “You are engaging in self pity, that is selfish and a sin!”
“Your life is so much better than starving orphans in Africa, shame on you for wanting to take your life when the orphans would gladly swap places with you”)
5. Encourage you to ignore, deny, or stuff down the depressed feelings
– by “serving others” ie,
“Go work in a soup kitchen,” “Go on a misions trip to Africa,” “think of those less fortunate than yourself”
Try to determine beforehand the best you can that the Christian you want to confide in is not the type who is going to criticize you for having depression (or suicidal thoughts), not going to respond by giving you a cliche’ or pat answer, or tell you to bury or ignore the pain doing “busy work” (such as ‘go volunteer in a soup kitchen’).
Avoid using as a source of comfort (regarding depression) any Christian who you feel would tell you something like, “trust in Jesus more, turn it over to God,” or other platitudes.
Avoid “biblical counselors,” also known as Nouthetic counselors, as these are not compassionate, empathetic types who are interested in getting you healed from depression: they will instead blame your depression on supposed “personal sin.” Avoid these guys. Christians who practice Nouthetic counseling or who agree with it are interested in victim-blaming, not in restoring people’s mental health.
I am warning you of this beforehand so the first time you get vulnerable with another Christian, with the assumption the she (or he) will be all loving and compassionate like Jesus Christ, that you will not go into shock when you get one of the idiotic, insensitive comments I listed above.
There are many, many Christians who do not “get” or understand depression or depressed people, so they say a lot of hurtful, stupid things. You can EXPECT that to happen at least once in your life if you keep going to Christians looking for sympathy. These types of Christians do exist.
Matt Walsh’s post also sounded ridiculous to me. He was basically telling depressed people to have joy – if they could do that, they would not be depressed in the first place. It would be a little like telling a man paralyzed and in a wheelchair to just conquer his situation by standing up, getting out of the wheelchair, and taking a sprint around a track.
You’re asking the guy to do something he cannot do. If he could get up, stand and run, he’d have no need for the wheelchair to start with.
Matt Walsh may have meant well with his initial post about depression (I would like to assume), but I can see a lot of harmful assumptions buried or implied through out it, and it’s frustrating that despite having numerous persons try to explain to him the problematic views or assumptions, he chose to pretty much diminish their concerns and dig in deeper.
Edit. This editorial by Bill McNorris is just as, if not more, insensitive as Matt Walsh’s (and he is attempting to defend Walsh’s poor views on the topic in this, as well as maybe create a few new, offensive, insensitive, and strange views):
Excerpt by McNorris:
Telling someone they have a disease [McNorris is referring to clinical depression there] rather than a feeling, that they are slaves to brain chemistry, is not empathy, nor is it empowering. It’s destructive.
As you can see from just that brief excerpt (but there is so much more obnoxiously wrong in his editorial), McNorris’ arguments are wrong and misdirected for many of the same reasons that Walsh’s are.
The folks who are criticizing Walsh’s post are not seeking to “glamorize” suicide, or empower people to use it as some kind of “tool” or war against conservatives (and I happen to be a conservative), so I have no idea where this McNorris is getting these warped ideas from. This McNorris’ guy’s twitter address is,
Part 2 of this post:
From The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
If you are in crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Or visit their page if you are having thoughts of suicide:
(Link): I Am Struggling
Related posts on other people’s blogs or sites (rebuttals or criticisms of Walsh’s views on depression):
Note: Unfortunately, most rebuttals I’ve seen to this point consist of, “Matt Walsh sucks tennis balls, may he rot in slime.” While those responses are understandable, cathartic, and can be entertaining to read, I prefer responses that are more polite, thoughtful, and less vitriolic. I hope most of these fit the bill:
(Link): Matt Walsh, Robin Williams and how ignorance can lead to unkindness – from The Naked Pastor
(Link): Is Suicide a Choice or A Symptom? Matthew Walsh On Robin Williams, Suicide – from The Inquisitor
(Link): A Theological Response to Robin Williams (and Matt Walsh) – from Tomorrow’s Reflection Blog
(Link): A PSYCHIATRIC RESPONSE TO ROBIN WILLIAMS (AND MATT WALSH) – from Dr. Z’s Ramblings
(Link): Yes, Matt Walsh, Robin Williams lost the ability to see the joy in his life – from Potluck
(Link): How To Not Be Matt Walsh
(Link): About Suicide… Addressing Matt Walsh on Robin Williams – Diary of a Curvaceous Cutie
This last link comes from an Atheist blog – if you are a Christian, please don’t tune this out or skip over it – it’s well written, makes some good points, and does not bash the Christian faith:
If I find any more good links like those, I will amend the list to add them.
Related posts on this blog: