Robin Williams died yesterday. The man who brought so much laughter to this world couldn't find any in his own life and killed himself. I had no plans to blog about this. As tragic and sad as it is, it wasn't something I felt I needed to address. Until this morning. My younger daughter crawled into my bed as I was listening to the news on the radio.
"So, that actor guy died?" she said.
"Yes," I answered.
"How did he die?"
"He killed himself."
"Why would someone do that?"
And that's the question. Why would someone who appeared to have so much to live for fall into a pit of despair so deep that there was no way for him to see through the darkness?
At some point in their lives, our kids are going to know someone who is depressed. They're probably going to be touched by suicide in some form. My first experience came in high school when a guy I was in band with committed suicide. I was a sophomore in high school and completely shocked. I had no idea he was depressed. I had no idea there was deep pain hiding behind a quiet, shy demeanor. I had no idea.
And that's why we need to talk with our kids about suicide, perhaps using the death of this famous actor as a springboard for that conversation. It would be so much easier just to gloss it over, just to ignore it because this is a tough subject.
The truth is, though, that depression and suicide are topics our kids need to know about. They need to know that what they see on the outside of a person isn't always a good indicator of how they feel on the inside. They need to know that their words and actions matter and that they can wound or heal with those words and actions. They need to know that depression is an illness; it's not something that people choose. They need to know that when a friend struggles to live with depression, it truly is a fight for survival.
And, most importantly, our kids need to know that it's not something to hide. They need to know that it's not shameful to ask for help. They need to know that it's OK to bring in an adult if they or a friend are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. They need to know that God isn't missing from the situation. Because knowing these things can save a life.
So, don't hesitate to talk to your kids about depression or suicide. Don't skirt around the subject. Bring it up. Shed light into the dark places. Pray for your friends who struggle. Look for ways you can help. Because you just might save a life by doing so.