Understanding Matthew Warren

In the wake of the suicide of Rick Warren’s son Matthew, Thomas McDonald tries to explain the mind of the clinically depressed. It’s not easy, but he’s got some interesting insight:

The mentally ill will forever remain an enigma to a population that can look at a person torn apart by a darkness that devours and say, “Everybody gets depressed” or “You’ve got a good life, so what you have to be down about?” 

The issue will be further clouded by the vast number of people who are medicated–and in most cases mis-medicated and/or over-medicated–for “depression,” and thus think they understand something about real, clinical depression: not the boutique blues that doctors like to smother in Prozac, but the clammy parasite that attaches to your soul and sucks out your life day by agonizing day, until the only relief is annihilation. 

I come from a long line of mental patients, alcoholics, and suicides. My family tree is full of people who completed their short and tormented lives in a madhouse, at the bottom of a bottle, or at the end of a rope. Had I not met my wife at the point when I did, and made the ongoing effort to “heal” (you’re never healed) under the motivation of her selfless love, I would have been one of them. 

What will probably disturb people the most about the death of Matthew Warren is that those around him seemed to do everything right. He had the love and support of a faith-filled family who understood that this was an actual illness that needed the best doctors, treatments,  and medications available, and they had financial resources to get that help. Judging by his father’s statement, the Warren family “got it” as much as they possibly could. 


Despair is a great danger in the life of the mentally ill: perhaps the greatest. Hope is what keeps people going. When that hope is lost, all is lost. Thus suicide would seem to be the absence of hope and surrender to despair. 

But I wonder, sometimes, in some cases, if the distortion of thought that accompanies mental illness gets it exactly backwards; if, at some point, hope and despair become crossed in the mind of the sufferer. Death mistakenly appears to be a hopeful act. 

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