This weekend a person in our small county killed three of his family members and then himself. He’d been posting depressing cries for help for more than a month on his Facebook account and people who knew him said he was suffering from PTSD, possibly from his time in the service.
A veteran suffering from PTSD in our area is not new and it’s also not unusual to be reading yet another story about one of them killing themselves or someone else. Almost as common as the obits of young people dying of heroin overdose in our area are the obits of military veterans, of all ages, dying at their own hands.
Comments about this latest case ranged from “what a freaking psycho, I don’t care if he had PTSD or not” to “why didn’t someone help him?” and “how can I help someone who has PTSD to keep this from happening?”
There was a lot of hurt, a lot of anger and even more ignorance about mental health showcased on social media following the murders and suicide. I think one of the most common misconceptions about mental illnesses like depression is that the depressed person is always going to show they are depressed and they are always going to reach out for help, before they do something drastic. Depressed people don’t seek help most of the time, period. What they might do is try to send messages to those around them to let them know how down they are getting. They throw out a lifeline, but many times those lines are never picked up
Hurt people hurt people. Period. The first time I heard that phrase I was angry. I didn’t want to hear that. I didn’t want to think about how or why the person who hurt me was hurting inside. My exact words were “screw that. I don’t care how hurt they are, it never excuses what they did.” And it’s true. Being hurt doesn’t excuse you from hurting others. What that phrase does is explain that people aren’t always simple jerks when they do something that devastates another person. It’s more complex and deep than the person simply being a horrible person.
I also notice in this world that when someone is labeled as “depressed” or “needing meds” it seems to coincide with the feeling they aren’t worth dealing with, worth associating with, worth reaching out to. I guess we feel that if we can’t “fix” a person then we shouldn’t even bother dealing with them at all.
I can’t tell you how many times I posted on Facebook while depressed, hoping someone would pay attention and call me. Was it sad? Yes? Did I feel like a loser trying to get attention? Yes. Did anyone ever call and check on me? No. I sometimes got a comment of “so sorry you’re feeling that way…” but I can not remember even once a friend picking up the phone and saying “What is going on? How can I help?”
The bigger question – was I ever suicidal? No! Thank God, I never have been. Never. I can assure you of this. I’m a Christian but I still fear death, especially if I did it myself. I’d doubt God would smile on that. But if I had been suicidal, there wasn’t one person who would have stopped me. Why? I don’t know. Because they didn’t think I really would? Because they didn’t want to deal with me? Because – they really don’t care if I am here or not? I don’t know. What I do know is that it seems people don’t care until the person is gone and then they feel guilty, when they might have been able to say something before they read the obit or the news story.
Certainly this guy who killed his family was sending messages on social media in the months leading up to the murders and his suicide. And it was clear by comments made after he died that most of the people in his life wrote him off as a freak and never tried to actually help him.
Comments made on the man’s social media page after the crime are why the depressed and anxious continue to live their lives in the dark no matter how many celebrities suggest they “reach out” and “seek help.”
Or being told you’re not a good Christian because you’re depressed?
Most of the time depressed people, especially Christians, will not seek help because we know we won’t get it. We will be handed Bible verses to show us we are sinning. Pressure will be placed on our shoulders with statements like “I can’t wait to see what God is going to do with your life through this.” Well, that is just great. Not only do we have to survive a traumatic life event but we also have to somehow use it in the future to help others.
Maybe waiting until the crisis is a little more under control before declaring that the person in pain will eventually share their pain so one day the rest of the Christian community can dissect it and judge it like you’re doing.
Christians who deal with depression are tired of the stigma, tired of being looked down on and really tired of being ignored and walked away from. We know the authority we have over the dark. We get it and we try our best to wield that authority but some days we are tired and other Christians reminding us that our weakness is a sin because the Bible commands us to always rejoice and never be anxious is simply not helping.
Maybe if someone had paid attention to that young man’s pleas for help – no matter how subtle they seemed (though I don’t think letting people know in a Facebook post that a murderer doesn’t go around telling everyone of their plans, they just do it, is subtle.) he and the rest of his family would be alive today. But then again, maybe they wouldn’t because as much as I hate to be judged, I can’t imagine judging the family that remains. Most people who are depressed don’t hurt others or even themselves.
I’m sure that man’s family could have never imagined he’d do what he did and they may have even tried many times to get him help. In fact, I have a feeling they begged him to seek help many times. A person has to want to seek help.
It’s sad to think, though, that maybe one reason he didn’t seek that help was the fear of being treated just like he was in death – like a “loser” who “couldn’t get it together,” and “didn’t deserve to live.”