I've always viewed mental illness as an illness ... and suicide as the fatal form of the illness. If a doctor tells someone they have Stage Four cancer, that person knows he or she is going to die soon. Well, there's Stage Four mental illness, too, and it's just not realistic to expect to save the life of a person who is in that stage.
Having said that, I'll quickly add that most people don't consider mental illness an illness. It's just a bad mood, snap out of it! Or better yet ... Here! Take this semi-automatic weapon! Clearly there's nothing wrong with you -- you look just fine.
If you take the prevailing American indifference to mental health, and combine it with a philosophy that says you can "pray away" things like depression and homosexuality, you get a volatile mix of toxins.
Last weekend near Sharpsburg, Maryland, a father of four shot himself in the head on Sunday morning after his wife and children had gone into church. This is the same mini-mega church that my sister attended for many years ... the self-same church where my father's funeral was preached by a fire-and-brimstone moron who used the extravagantly ridiculous simile that Heaven is like an amusement park where you have to pay to get in the gate.
One can only imagine how sick a man had to be to end his life with five people dependent upon him. But honestly, knowing what I know about that church, I would have to say that it probably contributed to his demise the way smoking contributes to lung cancer.
If the poor fellow had the courage to speak of his pain at all, no doubt he was told to take it to the Lord in prayer. (Well, I've seen many sick people take their issues to the Lord in prayer, and not one of them survived indefinitely. The Lord fails everyone in the end, no matter how much they pray.)
My completely in-the-dark guess is that the man never told anyone how he felt, because his unanswered prayers for healing made him look weak and sinful.
Churches like that one generally do more harm than good, because everyone that goes to churches like that is so damned sure of everything. Inevitably, when life gets messy and God is too busy to do what moron pastors claim God will do, people become angry, depressed, isolated even within a throng, and occasionally ostracized.
My sister no longer attends that church. She had a major falling-out with the congregation and the pastor (not the same moron who preached Dad's funeral, another moron). And to hear her tell it, the "elders" of the congregation verbally attacked her to the point of screaming at her. I saw some of the bullshit comments she got on her Facebook site from those people, and for the love of fruit flies, I can't even imagine why she had words with them. I'd have just bailed.
The only good I can see in toxic churches like this is that people who attend them, and see through them, often wind up in search of the bored gods. Those of us who believe in Higher Power, but who want to separate that divinity from dogma, get out of Dodge ... leaving behind terminally ill parishioners who can't understand why God doesn't deliver like a pizza man.
Do you think the members of that church will sit down together and do a sober assessment of this tragedy and the part they might have played in it, either through oversight or blind faith? Me neither.