Monday, April 08, 2013

Suicide, Mental Illness and the Church

My wife read the headline to me from across the living room. "That can't be right," I thought, "it is probably some hoax on Facebook or something." But as I walked over to the computer to look I saw it was not some random link on social media, but was in fact a real headline.

I don't know the Warrens. I don't have any personal contacts at Saddleback Church. Yet the headline made my knees go weak, forcing me to sit down.

Suicide has that effect on me. A few months ago a childhood friend of mine that I hadn't talked to in many years committed suicide and it put me in a funk for over a week. (Chalk suicide up as news you don't want to hear about on Facebook) When my uncle committed suicide a couple of years ago, it affected me for months. I'm not sure why this hits me so personally, but it does. My heart and prayers go out to the Warren family.

When Adam Lanza opened fire at an elementary school in Connecticut, there was a brief, strong push to bring mental illness more into the limelight. Unfortunately those voices were drowned out by the movement for stricter gun control. (for the record, this is not a political statement, rather a lament that we are missing the forest for the trees) Maybe this time those of us calling for our country, and now specifically our churches, to acknowledge this growing epidemic will finally be heard.

I thought attention might have been grabbed when just a few months ago a landmark study linked autism, ADHD and depression. One headline from Yahoo read "The Surprising Link Between Depression and ADHD". Another from the Raw Story went further: "Autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia share common gene problem". (two of the top links from a Google search) But for those of us affected by these "categories" of mental illness, this news did not come as a surprise. (And I have more to say about in a future post later this week)

April is Autism Awareness Month. I don't know if Matthew Warren was diagnosed to be on the Autism Spectrum, but the news does state that he had a history of mental illness and depression. Regardless, this is an issue that our society and our churches need to learn to deal with. Ed Setzer wrote a great article over at CNN that covers many of the bases I planned to so I encourage you to read that whole post. A highlight:

Matthew had the best medical care available, a loving church that cared for him and his family, and parents who loved and prayed for him. Yet, that could not keep Matthew with us.

I'm going to talk more about mental illness and the church this week. My prayer, besides comfort and healing for the Warrens and the community at Saddleback, is for those of you dealing with depression, ASD, or other mental illnesses, personally or relationally, to know that you are not alone. And although headlines such as this may make it feel like there is no hope, there is.

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