Robin William's suicide has been talked about around the world. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sent out a well-intentioned and foolish tweet with a picture from the Disney movie of the genie (voiced by Williams) giving Aladdin a hug. The tweet says, "Genie, you're free." In a report on National Public Radio, Elizabeth Minne, a licensed psychologist in Austin, Texas, says that comments like this make her job difficult, because they paint suicide as a positive or appropriate way to find some sense of relief. Others talk about Williams losing his battle with depression, implying that anyone who commits suicide is weak.
But what are helpful ways to talk about suicide? Perhaps the most helpful of all is a 3000-year-old lament written by someone in the throws of a deep depression. Though not explicitly about suicide, the author of Psalm 88 feels far from God and close to death. This psalm both challenges anyone who says that "People of God should never be depressed" and gives voice to the heart struggling with depression, and turns that struggle into a prayer.
In addition, here are three responses to Williams' death that I have found helpful.
In "What the Church & Christians Need to Know About Suicide & Mental Health," Ann Voskamp says nothing about Williams, but talks about grace, lament, her mother's mental illness, and Voskamp's own consideration of suicide.
"Talking about suicide and Robin Williams’s death," by Hollis Easter, gives seven helpful and loving items to consider.
Anne Lamott posted a visceral lament on Facebook the day after Williams died. The comments from others are as helpful as Lamott's own words.
In the wake of this very public suicide, I pray that we may gain a deeper awareness about depression and suicide, and in turn that the people of God may become even more compassionate and helpful toward people who think that taking their own lives as the only way to find relief from the abyss in which they find themselves.