Robin Williams: Or Why I Can't Stand Matt Walsh

>> Wednesday, August 13, 2014

As all of you know by now, Robin Williams has taken his own life after dealing with depression. Normally I don't agree with or fully understand why so many people are so saddened by the death of someone they never personally knew, but this time it's different.

Maybe it's because many of Robin Williams' movies could have helped people struggling with the very thing he succumbed to. It might be because I'm starting to better appreciate how much art affects us as human beings. Or maybe it's because I've read so many stories over the past day of how truly decent of a human being he was. Regardless of the reason, his death has touched me in a way other celebrity deaths haven't. Unfortunately, we as a society can't solely focus on the wonderful things a person accomplished while on this earth. Someone has to go and spoil the pot. For me, that someone was Matt Walsh.

Matt Walsh, a prolific blogger amongst Mormons, basically blogs for his job. At least that's what it seems like. Which, hey, good for him. Not everybody can monetize their blog to the point of making a living off it. However, I feel like this monetization causes him to blog on all the time about anything. More hits equals more revenue from ads, after all.

Walsh tends to have very strong opinions about things, and essentially every post I've read of his makes my blood boil. He approaches topics with an all-knowing attitude and utterly refuses to see the other side of the topic he's discussing. I actually stopped reading his posts a long while ago because they made me so angry. But he posted about Robin Williams and, as depression (and people who commit suicide because of it) is a sensitive topic for me since I myself suffer from it and many people I know have had profound struggles with it as well, I decided to bite his dangling carrot.

The crux of his argument is that committing suicide is a choice. This statement, on the surface, is very true. It wouldn't be suicide if it weren't the person's choice; it would be murder. The thing that really rubbed me the wrong way with Walsh's post was that he states he has dealt with depression himself, so he positions himself as someone who knows everything about depression. Therefore, since he didn't experience the utter helplessness that many, many depressed people do, then Robin Williams simply chose to take his own life. That's that. That was a stupid choice, he hurt his friends and family. Case closed. His writing makes it seem like you can just snap your fingers, surround yourself with happy people and joyful things and *snap* you're not depressed anymore.

Unfortunately, that's not how it works.

When you're depressed, you are literally unable to think straight. There is a very real chemical imbalance in your brain that prevents it from functioning correctly. You generally cannot see happiness, cannot see that others love you dearly. You stop being yourself, and at times all you think is you are such a burden to your friends and family that it would be better that you didn't exist. Expecting a depressed person to be able to snap out of this state of mind is utterly refusing to understand the physiological events occurring in the depressed person's body.

A while back a humor blogger chronicled some of her "Adventures in Depression." That's part one, and it's quite funny. Part Two is also rather funny, but is a frighteningly accurate depiction of what it's like to be depressed and have your family and friends try to do what they can do bring you out of it. I strongly recommend it for anyone struggling to understand what depression does to a person. Note that there's some strong language in both of those links.

Many people have fallen so deeply into depression that they feel there is no other choice than to take their life. I know it's difficult to understand, but it's true. And there are people out there like Matt Walsh who have experienced depression and still don't understand what it's like to feel there is no other option. It's heartbreaking. So when Matt Walsh stands up and effectively says, "Suicide is a choice. Just make the choice to not commit suicide," it makes me very, very angry. Because he doesn't understand. So many people don't understand what it's like to feel you don't have the choice people tell you you have.

And that's why it's so important that we talk about depression and other mental illnesses. They're currently treated like they're taboo. Our friends and family who struggle with this condition need our help. They need to know they can trust us. They need to know that we love them. They need to know that life is worth living. And if nobody talks about it, nothing gets solved and we continue to experience tragedies like the death of Robin Williams that are preventable.

But it isn't going to be easy. It's going to take effort. It's going to take love. It's going to take a lot of uncomfortable discussions and chats before we can change things for the better. But remember that if things do change, we can save lives. And that, I think, is something Robin Williams would have wanted.


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