It is Lent 2019 as I write this, and I want to take part. The emphasis is to improve our relationship with God, to be a better person. But as someone with schizophrenia, I know that many others in that category with me are suicidal and have a very difficult time being a better person. We need to forgive ourselves, and that is the crux of the matter: We can’t. We live with the belief that we are among the worst, most unforgiveable people on the planet, and the reality is that only medication can resolve this. And the TV news doesn’t help.
Attempts at suicide are common among people with this illness. I saw this firsthand during my years at the hospital, and I tried it myself. Sadly, some succeed. I knew a man who carried through with it. I called him Frank Kirkland in my book. He was a drug addict with so much potential to do good. I still weep for him at times now 40 years later.
I can’t blame the Church for putting this weight on my shoulders. Its people are human, too, with their own failings and limitations, and we go through this walk together. But generally, they withdraw. As the young prosecutor asked during the “Just Prosecution” simulation exercise, “If the Church won’t help you, who will?” In the March 2019 issue of US Catholic there is an interview with Chicago deacon Tom Lambert. The online headline to the article is “Catholics must do more to accompany people with mental illness, says this deacon. Parishioners don’t have to be psychiatrists to support Catholics with mental illness.”
There is hope in this season.