Two years ago, a friend of mine, and my best friend’s older brother lost his battle.
He had most likely suffered from bi-polar disorder or another mental illness without ever getting it officially diagnosed. Instead, he was trapped by stigmas and self-medication. Unfortunately, his situation became so dire, he felt that the best option, his only option, was death. He took his life two years ago.
With his decision, there have been a host of mixed emotions. Anger, frustration, sadness, despair. It seems like when someone dies of suicide, it is harder to find hope. I don’t pretend to have any answers to this problem. However, this is helpful:
“Suicide consists in the voluntary and intentional taking of one’s own life, particularly where the person involved is accountable and has a sound mind. . . . Persons subject to great stresses may lose control of themselves and become mentally clouded to the point that they are no longer accountable for their acts. Such are not to be condemned for taking their own lives. It should also be remembered that judgment is the Lord’s; he knows the thoughts, intents, and abilities of men; and he in his infinite wisdom will make all things right in due course” – Bruce R. McConkie
As far as my own experience – with Matt, and my friend Steph, and their family. I know them, and I’ve known them for many years. I know that Matt was a good guy with some serious difficulties. His difficulties were no different than having a heart problem or kidney disease. It was a real problem, left untreated. If we leave high blood pressure untreated, the risk is death. If we leave diabetes untreated, the risk is death. If we ignore the symptoms of high blood pressure or diabetes, and continue doing the things that would exacerbate the problems, then the risk is death. Depression, bi-polar disorder, and other mental disorders are no different. If Mental illnesses are left untreated, the risk is dire. If we ignore the symptoms of mental disorder and continue doing the things that will exacerbate the problem, then we are at grave risk. Matt is an unfortunate example of this.
I know that the gospel offers hope. I am not a neuroscientist or doctor, but I think that there is a connection between choosing the right and general mental health. In Alma, we learn
“And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.” – Alma 41:11
I know that depression isn’t as simple as choosing the right. I have suffered from depression. I have suffered, especially, from post-partum depression. I know that it is difficult to control. I also know that as we seek to be closer to God, then we are on the track to happiness. We may not have these happy-go-lucky days. Things may be hard, but when we exercise faith in the Lord, and when we do what is necessary to become whole (priesthood blessings, therapy, even medication), then we will eventually obtain the happiness we desire.
I love this quote by Elder Packer,
“It was meant to be that life would be a challenge. To suffer some anxiety, some depression, some disappointment, even some failure is normal. Teach our members that if they have a good, miserable day once in a while, or several in a row, to stand steady and face them. Things will straighten out. There is great purpose in our struggle in life.” – Elder Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, May 1978
I have to admit, sometimes I forget that. It is easy to think, especially as members of the church – people who believe in a plan of happiness, that we should always be happy. However, we must remember that we do face challenging times. Not only is this life difficult, but our bodies are not perfected. We have hormones, we may have chemical imbalances, and who knows how some of the things we put in our bodies effect our delicate hormonal systems. There are various reasons we may get a little depressed or anxious.
It is good to remember that a hard day, or even a series of them is relatively normal. We shouldn’t self-medicate, but we should look to the Lord. If things feel like they are too much to handle, we should seek appropriate help. We can be happy. Heavenly Father wants us to be happy. His nature is happiness. He can guide us to a happy life.
My friend wrote a really great post about her experience. Please, check it out here. You can also check out a very good podcast about families who have experienced suicide here. If you know someone who is suffering, please take it seriously. If you have been a survivor of someone who committed suicide, I hope that you can find comfort.