Not surprisingly, Robin Williams’ death has ignited a war of words between those who believe that suicide is a selfish act of cowardice and those who believe that it is a regrettable symptom of mental illness — that the suicide is in essence innocent of his own murder by reason of insanity.
Among the former is Shepard Smith who observed on Fox News:
You could love three little things [Williams’ children] so much, watch them grow, they’re in their mid-20s, and they’re inspiring you, and exciting you, and they fill you up with the kind of joy you could never have known.’
‘And yet, something inside you is so horrible or you’re such a coward or whatever the reason that you decide that you have to end it. Robin Williams, at 63, did that today.’
What do you have to say to that, Gerard Manley Hopkins?
O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.
Obviously, Shep Smith “ne’er hung there,” and though Matt Walsh, self-professed “professional sayer of truths” claims to have “struggled with [depression] his entire life,” he’s obviously “ne’er hung there” either:
So I’m just like you, then, because I can’t stomach the thought of [suicide]. I’ve seen it in the neighborhoods where I’ve lived and the schools that I’ve attended. I’ve seen it in my family. I’ve known adults and kids who’ve done it. I’ve seen it on the news and read about it in books, but I can’t comprehend it. The complete, total, absolute rejection of life. The final refusal to see the worth in anything, or the beauty, or the reason, or the point, or the hope. The willingness to saddle your family with the pain and misery and anger that will now plague them for the rest of their lives.
It’s a tragic choice, truly, but it is a choice, and we have to remember that. Your suicide doesn’t happen to you; it doesn’t attack you like cancer or descend upon you like a tornado. It is a decision made by an individual. A bad decision. Always a bad decision.
Of cuff I button at my wrist. The presser, the cutter,
The wringer, the mangle. The needle, the union,
The treadle, the bobbin. The code. The infamous blaze
At the Triangle Factory in nineteen-eleven.
One hundred and forty-six died in the flames
On the ninth floor, no hydrants, no fire escapes—
The witness in a building across the street
Who watched how a young man helped a girl to step
Up to the windowsill, then held her out
Away from the masonry wall and let her drop.
And then another. As if he were helping them up
To enter a streetcar, and not eternity.
A third before he dropped her put her arms
Around his neck and kissed him. Then he held
Her into space, and dropped her. Almost at once
He stepped to the sill himself, his jacket flared
And fluttered up from his shirt as he came down,
Air filling up the legs of his gray trousers—
Obviously, depression is an existential, individual disease that manifests itself in different individuals in different degrees. I’m assuming that Mr. Walsh hasn’t suffered Gerard-Manley-Hopkins or David-Foster-Wallace-grade depression, endured those hideous nightmares that plague the sufferer, who pulls down the comforter to discover the rotting corpse of his mother, nightmares that slaughter sleep, which further exhausts the sufferer, who now shuffles blank eyed through a bleak day where nothing – no thing – will bring him joy nor alleviate his excruciating pain.
Yes, suicide is a horrible act, an act that plagues family and friends with sorrow and perhaps guilt; however, if someone’s psyche is a Triangle Factory on fire, I can understand and forgive his or her leaping.