Mental illness: Little from the Clergy
Father Ron Rolheiser’s article Suicide: Reclaiming memories was indeed a timeous read for my family and me, having some weeks before experienced the horror of all horrors.
Our much-loved son, an architect and gifted in many fields, took his own life at the age of 56. He had suffered for 25 years from the tragedy of schizophrenia, itself an indescribable horror.
As one who has walked that sad, lonely and difficult road with my son, I agree with Fr Rolheiser when he says that his article needs constant repetition, for mental illnesses of all kinds – depression, bipolar, schizophrenia are certainly all too common in today’s frenetic world, and often end in suicide.
So families not only have to deal for years with these illnesses, but in the end also with the terrible pain of the suicide of those with and for whom they have struggled for so long.
There is enormous need for public perceptions to change, and that includes those of our priests as well. We have been blessed in having had incredible support from family, friends and parish, plus expert and deeply caring help from our local mental health facilities, stretched as they are. But and I have to be brutally honest here – very, very few clergy.
In fact, only three took the trouble to communicate with us 25 years ago when our son went walk-about for three years, and we knew not whether he was living or dead. This really hurt deeply, for we saw how people with cancer or other terminal illnesses are fussed over by the clergy.
And us? Usually, we are simply left to get on with it ourselves. Is it because being “mad” lasts a lifetime and does not kill you? Or is it because to lose your mind is still the Big Unspoken? And what about all the other deaths one suffers: death of dreams and hopes and future, and of the wonderful person you used to be?
We have been enormously helped by our own faith all these years and this has been God’s gift to us, but there are thousands out there who have nothing to hang on to. May God help them is our constant prayer.