The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

Let's talk.

Depression. Addiction. Suicide. Let's talk about 'em.

In the last few weeks, my mind has been pre-occupied with stories of depression and addiction and suicide because people I love are trapped and tortured and dead. There's not a "nice" way to talk about it. Well, there's a "nice" way, but it's false. There's a way to say that it's sad, and that they were gone to soon, and that we wish we could have done something, and that we wish they would have made better choices, and that we wish they'd asked for help. We put the onus on people who are not in control of anything to somehow snap out of it. And that dishonors humanness.

I can no longer count on just one hand the people in my life who are currently in the pit of addiction. Some of them have been in my hand for years. A few weeks ago, I learned that a long-lost friend-of-a-friend had died of an overdose a few years ago, and I'd never heard about it. While that sounds so far away, it just reminded me of the trajectory, in general. This weekend, dozens of people I graduated high school with came home to mourn one of our own. This weekend, I learned that another friend has been using--whether or not he'll seek professional help right away is uncertain. This morning, Robin Williams, a beloved entertainer whose lifetime of mental health struggle has been in the news, was found dead of apparent suicide.

So this afternoon, on the internet, we started to talk about it. We talked about how much we have loved him, how much joy he has brought us, how much his career affected our lives. Oh, it was wonderful. I used up 70% of my iPhone battery refreshing twitter to read the public grief. So many people expressing their dismay that such a positive contributor to the life of the world could meet such a devastating end.

Robin Williams and my friends and your friends have not suffered from something they could have avoided. Part of what's so terrible about depression and addiction is that we, as a society, only whisper about them and believe that seeing a therapist is a problem and that asking for help is a weakness. A woman I follow on twitter wrote a while back--in response to the suicide of a famous person--that the reason we are so aghast at addiction and mental illness and overdose, in particular, is that our minds have never been in such a way that that was an option, let alone the option. We cannot imagine what it's like to be so desperate.

And Robin Williams and my friends and your friends are not at fault. And when they die, you're not at fault, either. But while they live, let's talk about it. Let's let it out. Let's allow at least the decency to pronounce the words "depression" and "addiction" like we pronounce "cancer" and "heart disease" so that we might, together, pronounce "recovery."

The thing is, dear ones, I love you. I am glad you are alive. You matter to me. You matter to a lot of people besides me. You matter to your God (or to mine, if you don't consider God "yours"). The thing about depression is that it can rob us of that knowledge. Know it. Share it.

If you or someone you love needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org


Something something bucket pun.

You're Invited -- Matthew 10:40-42