Robin Williams and the Failure of the Mental Health Industry

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Readers of the Network,

Heath King, former Yale Professor and author wrote according to Newsmax, "He (Williams) fit the profile of an entertainer trying to manage-and mask-mental illness with laughter." I do not think so. Robin Williams was first a comedian who happened to be suffering from mental health issues. He was not trying to mask his mental illness any more than I was trying to mask my mental health illness with preaching. I struggled for as long as I could to keep preaching until I finally realized I could not continue like that for my own welfare, family's welfare, and the church's welfare. I was fully aware of how my depression was limiting my abilities to think, preach, relate, and just plain function. I suspect that Robin was using comedy not to mask his depression but simply to do what he enjoyed and felt was his assignment/calling.

What he may have been masking was the fact that despite all the counseling he was receiving and prescription medication he was taking he was not getting better. His caregivers may have been masking this truth as well. Mental illness does not always respond to the time schedule of the afflicted or affected or their caregivers. When one is in a public occupation it is problematic as to when to say: "I need a time-out". There is generally the feeling that if I just hang in there for another day, week, month, quarter I might be better. I must give the therapy and medication more time before I seek a sabbatical to regain my health. One risks some very painful preaching experiences and comedian performances or even worse while not yielding to the reality of one's mental health condition. The calling church through an individual or team must be aware enough that they can discern what they are hearing on Sunday morning is not their preacher but only his shadow. They must honestly talk to their pastor as to how he feels about his progress while in therapy. There has to be the freedom for the Pastor to say: "I cannot do this right now." "This is getting dangerous for me, the congregation and my family." What can we work out?  Without this freedom the depressed pastor treads the path of possible suicide just as Robin Williams tread that path. Here as in so many areas, " the truth shall set us free."

The fact is that psychoanalysis, psychopharmacology, prayer, pastoral care can only go so far. When recovery is delayed caregivers along with the afflicted individual must continue to seek, knock and ask. We may not give up on recovery. This may require an entire team of caregivers surrounding the individual with appropriate care and love for as long as it takes.  

Are our pastors surrounded by this kind of team? Our comedians, farm laborers, CEO's, teachers, and healthcare workers?

Larry

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Thanks Larry!  Your words and example may well be used by the Lord to set other pastors free from this debilitating and dangerous disease!  Ken Van De Griend