Christians Should Rethink First Responses to Suicide


When the August 11th death of comedian and actor Robin Williams was ruled a suicide, I was disappointed, though not surprised, by some of the comments by some of the holier-than-thou Christians out there.

Many seemed determine to take advantage of the tragedy — and let’s face it: anytime someone takes their own life, it’s a tragedy — to push the “pray more, don’t be depressed, don’t be selfish” meme that can be so damaging to someone who’s clinically depressed.

There are plenty of people out there struggling with one issue or another and who have prayed — genuinely prayed — for help or relief. For whatever reason, they’ve seen no sign of either. And they’re told by well-meaning Christian friends to just “hang in there” because, of course, “God works in His own time.” Or worse, they’re told, while they’re already feeling worthless, that they aren’t trying hard enough to build a relationship with Christ.

There are levels of pain and levels of hurting in which that message is cruel from the point of view of the person hearing it, not hopeful. Though the deliverer of the message may have the best of intentions, their inability to put themselves in the place of the person they’re talking to does little to ease that wound.

What I find really strange, however, is what followed news that the kind of illness Williams suffered from, Lewy Body Dementia, a specific form of Parkinson’s Disease, can produce hallucinations.

Suddenly I began hearing Christians talking about how Williams “couldn’t help it” because he was suffering hallucinations, as if to suddenly be willing to excuse his behavior, since it may have been a mental illness component involved that would have prevented him from thinking clearly, and that suddenly God would surely have mercy on Williams.

Here’s what I don’t understand: why is it suddenly justifiable after hearing that Williams might have been suffering a delusion brought on by physical illness? Why does that “hard-nosed” attitude of some Christians who are so quick — almost eager — to point out Williams’ sure entry into Hell over the act begin to soften a bit?

Why are we compassionate once we know there’s a medical reason that might have caused the act?

Over at Christian Post, Frank Viola says it this way:

Surely, every person reading this article has made a hasty decision, a decision based on faulty or screwed thinking.

Viola also points out that no one knows whether, upon his last breath (or any other, I might add), Williams accepted Christ and asked for forgiveness for what he might have seen as the only way to out.

Williams knew that answer, but he’s gone now. God knows that answer still, and He’s the only one who needs to know.

When it comes to matters of grace, God doesn’t need our help: He has an understanding of the grace concept on a level most of us will never reach.

Thank Goodness for that.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.


  • Surely, *surely*, the man meant “skewed” thinking?? What the heck is “screwed thinking”–thinking like a carpenter? Also, this makes me wonder how many hard-liners really WANT there to be an ‘out’ for people and they will grab onto anything. That’s oddly good news for me.

    Your post is a good reminder of how mental illness is viewed by our culture. It’s a mess, really: people really stigmatize people who are ill. As the sister of someone who died of complications from a different version of Parkinson’s, just hearing that diagnosis would probably push me very close to the edge of despair even without hallucinations.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if Christians stopped judging everyone? Isn’t that in the Bible somewhere? Oh, yeah: Matthew 7:1 .

    • I had a mild bout with anxiety & panic disorder, if ANY version of it can be considered “mild,” and I quickly realized not only how few people really understand what it’s like, but also how nearly impossible it is for most people to seem to be able to understand what it could be like.

      That’s good for them, certainly. But it certainly doesn’t make life easy for anyone who suffers from it.

Comments are closed.