Over the weekend, news broke that TV presenter Caroline Flack had died by suicide – the story has dominated the headlines and social media has been flooded with tributes from her celebrity friends and fans alike.
And yet in the months and weeks leading up to her death following her arrest, Caroline had been subjected to a barrage of abuse online and in the tabloids. She had also posted to mark World Mental Health Day, telling her followers that she had been called “draining” when she reached out for help, that she feared being a burden – and herein lies a huge problem with the onus being on the struggling to reach out, to speak out and change the conversation about mental health.
So often the task of opening up about mental health falls to those who are struggling, to fight for help and make themselves more vulnerable in seeking help. This doesn’t mean that we aren’t to take responsibility to our own health, but it means we have to recognise that mental health problems are exacerbated by an inability to reach out.
This is when we have to ensure that we are taking notice of the people around us; that we notice when people are perhaps withdrawing socially – or even posting less online and check in or that we pop a card through the door if someone has been absent from church for a few weeks.
There has been a clarion call to kindness in the last few days; and we need to amplify it. We have the example of a God who is defined by His hesed – His loving kindness.
The darkest moments in scripture turn on these moments of God’s kindness. The most commonly quoted verse from the book of Lamentations is the one on which the book pivots:
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
The despair evoked by mental health issues, the despair which characterises suicidality is echoed in scriptures and it is met with the loving kindness of God.
We need to meet despair with loving kindness.
We are all too aware, however, that kindness is far easier to speak of that to enact. We need to take responsibility for consuming unkind content online and in print media, because what we feed our hearts and minds with will inform what comes out of our mouths and through our screens.
As Paul writes in Phillippians 4:8
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
As we go through this week; as the debates rage about social media, print media and mental health service provision – let’s be kind, lovely and admirable – drawing from our God who lavishes us with His loving kindness.
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, the Samaritans are available 24/7, 365 days a year.