(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

In the Bible there are all these stories of Jesus removing demons from people—and I confess that I have prayed for such miracles in our times and in our homes. To those who have never been touched by or loved someone with a serious mental illness, sometimes all this darkness seems clinical, at best—and, at worst, something people and/or their loved ones have brought upon themselves. But, truly, for many the darkness is a demon that strikes no matter what they or we do.

You can expound all you want about the evils of treatments such as psychiatric medications or the benefits of diet and exercise and positive thinking, but it appears that for some people it is just so much harder to feel hopeful than for others.

For anyone other than the person who is feeling suicidal to say that he or she is weak or only selfish shows a lack of understanding about the beastliness of suicidal feelings. How does any of us know that these people haven’t been required to face more darkness than we can ever imagine—and that they haven’t battled valiantly, time after time, year after year, against the darkness that descends upon them like some demon?

What do we know of their pain, especially if we have not been given a similar level of pain to fight in our lives? I don’t speak of the pain that comes from specific life experiences but of the pain of an organic darkness that for whatever medical reason overtakes certain people no matter what is happening in their lives.

How humbling to know that sometimes love for us is the only reason our loved ones continue the fight. That in those moments of pain and darkness for them, it is not a love for this life that keeps them here, but simply that love for us. No matter how grateful we are for this gift of continued living, wouldn’t you rather the demon be exorcised—for good—so that life itself—with all its normal ups and down and lightness and darkness—would be more than enough reason for them to stay amongst us?

While we ourselves might not often have the power to cast out demons permanently for others, we can bring as much light into this world as we can by being kind to one another and by providing whatever help is at our hands—as well as by refusing to judge those whose pain we can only pretend to understand.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep praying for miracles . . . both for those possessed by the demons of mental illness and for those of us who have also been touched by the darkness within those whom we love.


The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)