Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Removing the Stigma: A Brave Disclosure About Depression

The news this weekend that mega church pastor Rick Warren's son Matthew, committed suicide was unnerving and sad.

Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church and best selling author, was wonderfully transparent in his grief, disclosing that Matthew had been battling depression for more than 10 years.

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that nearly 15 million Americans suffer from major depressive disorder. More than 90 percent of those with depressive disorders (as well as suffering from substance abuse) commit suicide.

Whatever the most charitable responses to Matthew Warren's death, we should all react with compassion and great humility. The tragedy being experienced by the Warren family, is familiar to millions of Americans. All too often church leaders, clergy and lay leaders alike, are ill equipped to deal with this issue in our congregations and the lack of funding to provide adequate mental health care means that mental illness is going undiagnosed and untreated.No community, no family is left untouched.

That makes this recent post even more relevant...

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Jacquielynn Floyd is a very talented columnist for the Dallas Morning News. Last week, she wrote a very brave column about her personal battle with depression.

"It belabors the obvious to say I wouldn’t be writing this if I were dead."

"What occasionally unnerves me, with a sharp jolt of recollection, is how close a thing that is."

"Had either of two long-ago suicide attempts been successful, I would never have married, traveled, had a career, known half my family. To the other half, I would be a memory that could not be summoned without pain."

"The prospect of missing so much, and of inflicting so much grief, is dreadful to contemplate. Thank God I did not create permanent and irreversible damage.
This was an early chapter in what, on the whole, has since been a satisfying and interesting life."

"It’s blessedly easy to forget the painful, paralyzing effects of depression and the chaos it created in my head. Why dwell on something that hurt so much?
Yet it has been on my mind lately. Recently, this newspaper, along with KERA and Mayor Mike Rawlings, called for a comprehensive discussion about young people and mental health issues."

"A public symposium, “Erasing the Stigma: Mental Illness and the Search for Solutions,” will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the City Performance Hall."

"It crossed my mind again last week, when I attended a luncheon for an organization that honors the memory of a bright, gifted young Dallas man who was unable to see how much unrevealed promise his own life held. A victim of suicide, he died at 19."

The rest of the column can be read here.

Conversations about gun control, gun safety, our violent society, poverty and homelessness, as well as health care, must also include substantive conversations about mental health care. They are hard conversations to have, because they make us uncomfortable. But they are also conversations without which, we are a less safe, less compassionate society.

When friends of mine: prominent business and religious leaders, church members and health care professionals, have revealed that they, or their family members have suffered from depression or other mental health illnesses, it has always reinforced the fact that it can happen to anyone. We get that cancer, diabetes, a broken bone or heart problems can happen to us. We don't like to think that we may someday be in need of mental health care because the stigma attached to it.

It's time for us to end that stigma...

Thanks Jacquielynn for a very courageous disclosure. Now, if we will only listen...

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