A momentous occasion unfolded on Saturday when a head of state spoke both insightfully and eloquently about depression and suicide. The occasion, sadly, was the funeral of Dave Batters, a Member of Parliament who died by suicide the end of June, and the speaker the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, who told Batters’ family and the other mourners gathered in Regina, Saskatchewan,
We need to know that mental illness like Dave’s is shockingly common in our society. It affects the great and the small alike despite the stigma that still too often surrounds it.
Other politicians have carried the same burden. In fact, perhaps the two greatest English-speaking politicians in history, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, struggled with depression.
Harper also spoke of Batters with an emphasis on how he lived not just on how he died, a point many survivors of suicide suicide feel is missed by society as they grieve the loss of their loved ones.
This we know: in his struggle, Dave achieved a life worth living, a simple but profound truth, a goal we all aspire to, and he reached it. Dave’s family can take great pride in this.
For Dave made a significant contribution to the lives of others. Another great goal in life, and one he achieved so ably.
When he ran for public office, Dave did not do so for selfish reasons. He responded to the tragedy of another, the murder of his friend Michelle. He heard, and answered a call to service and he did so with conviction, distinction and success.
Depression didn’t stop that. It was his decency that drove him forward, that defined him in life, that will define him in death.
The Prime Minister also reached out to everyone who suffers from depression or who has been touched by suicide, declaring that “Dave is not alone” and recognizing the thousands of others who die by suicide every year.
The science has progressed, but we still don’t know enough about depression, and less about suicide.
But we know this much: depression can strike the sturdiest of souls. It cares not how much you have achieved nor how much you have to live for …
Unlike its myth, depression is not a function of character except that to fight it summons a strength of character, and a great strength of character like Dave’s to fight it as long as he did. Dave dealt with his illness head-on. That takes courage.
To Dave’s family, we mourn and share your loss. But so too do we share your pride in Dave’s life and in the greater good he served through elected office and through his public battle with depression from which we can all learn.
[The abridged URL for this post is http://tinyurl.com/PM-Eulogizes .]