• Christopher Tanner

The incredulous Matt Walsh: A Response to his Robin Williams Did not Die of a Disease Blog

Over the past 24 hours we have had Depression and Suicide brought to the public’s attention. I have read many blogs over the last few hours as I am dealing with the feelings of losing something that brings back feelings from my teenage years, something I may have never dealt with. These feelings are valid in the sense that they are a part of me and I probably should acknowledge with them.


What has started as a desire to hash out my feelings, figure out where they lay, and become determined to confront them, I have found a new inspiration that has spun from my desire for confrontation. You can read my first blog here. Depression and Suicide are topics that are simply not talked about or only begrudgingly. Death is not something people like to analyze and neither is unhappiness both of which result from the aforementioned concepts. What I have found to be incredibly angering are some of the responses I have gotten from my interactions with my previous blog. Though those only pale in comparison to a recent blog post I read by Matt Walsh, who appears to be a blogger and online news personality. Personally I have seen his name come up from the conservative christians on my page re-posting his blogs. Normally I do not read these as I know that I would disagree with most of what he posits. But today is different. Today he “clarified” his twitter response to Robin Williams death. His comments where this, “When we talk about depression we shouldn’t pawn the whole thing off on “chemical imbalances.” It’s not just clinical. It’s spiritual.”

Personally I would consider what Matt said to be a deepity, a phrase coined by Daniel Dennet I believe, which is a statement that basically tries to sound intelligent but comes up with nothing but meaningless words. This is what I feel Matt’s tweet was about. But according to his new blog post, he goes into detail about why he feels he is right and why the outrage he received was unwarranted. You can read his full blog here.

I will not bother to address the “spiritual” assertion as that is not the point of this blog. I do not feel that responding to things he has not shown to be true would be worth my time. The outrage I feel does not come from his “spiritual” attitude, use of the word, or even the his belief in a “spiritual world”. The impression of validity for such a concept affecting people’s mental health over chemical imbalances can be harmful.


On to his blog. Matt posts a few of the responses from his previous tweet. People trying to explain to him why this was a statement that maybe he misspoke on and should consider what he was trying to convey. Obviously instead of examining what he said he decided to double down and write a blog about it. After he has listed the tweet responses he says this: “Did I say that depressed people are automatically atheist?” What did this have anything to do with being spiritual? What do atheists or even atheism, which is just a lack of a belief in any gods, have to do with his spiritual comment? Sure, if you ask most atheists we would tell you to examine the real problem, but this did not come out of the tweets he had reposted to this blog.

He then goes on to presuppose what atheists mean when they talk about depression being only a disease of the mind. This is an ignorant statement. He must honestly not understand what clinical depression actually is. Here is a great reference site about Clinical Depression that explains why it is not just a “chemical imbalance” that comes from our mind not being able to function properly. While I will not deny that chemical imbalances do affect depression it is not the only factor. What Matt misses is the fact that there are many things that affects people’s depression including stress, anxiety, biological factors, genetics, alcohol, drug use, and the list goes on. What Matt fails to understand is that there are so many factors that are involved with depression to just claim atheist’s think it is a “chemical imbalance” just highlights his own ignorance.

Matt continues down his rabbit hole inserting his foot further into his mouth when he says that he has two points on which he feels everyone can come to a consensus. Let’s see if we will.

Point number one is that suicide does not claim anyone against their will. He calls suicide a choice. On the outside that seems like a reasonable statement. But it is only reasonable if you do not understand what suicide is or how people come to that conclusion. I am not a professional, but I can do enough research to understand what a choice is and how depression affects people. A choice is something people consciously decide to make. I can agree that suicide is something that people have to consciously do. This leads to the question: is their judgment impaired to the point that this “choice” is something coming from a rational, logical, and reasonably functioning mind.

I posit this question to Matt: “Is a women who has been fed MDMA and coerced into sex making a clear choice when she is being violated?” No, the she is not able to make a coherent decision and the person taking advantage of her is guilty of rape. In this sense suicide is not guilty of being a conscious choice someone makes because their brain is severely impaired. Matt then goes on to say that depression will not appear on the death report. To this I ask why not? Just because it has not been done in the past does not mean that in the future this should be done, maybe we need to consider what actually killed people.


As for Matt’s second point, he hopes everyone will agree that joy is the only thing that defeats depression. Now I do not have medical training but this sounds like another deepity he is trying to push off as fact. Joy is a relative attribute and one that I do not feel like spending hours debating Matt on. What I will say on it is that to just tell someone they need to find joy to cure their depression is an ignorant and hurtful thing to say. This sums up the true nature in whatever Matt is claiming that he believes. He continues by saying that joy and love are all that is left in the world and these are the forces that brought the whole universe together. This probably stems from his worldview and belief system which I am assuming is “spiritual” or “christian”. While I do not want to turn this into a blog about those topics we can see the affects of believing things that we do not know to be true has on people. I can accept anyone who wants to believe based on bad evidence, but I can not accept them repeating their beliefs as facts for curing depression or stifling suicide.

Matt ends his blog with this, “If you are thinking about suicide, don’t keep it inside. Tell someone.” That so far is the only thing I agree with that he has written. He has told us about a “spiritual” disease. He has told us suicide is a choice one makes and should not be associated with heart attacks stemmed from heart disease and he has told us that to cure depression we need joy. Those are all statements that have no basis in fact and are not information that anyone should give to depressed people or suicidal individuals.

Matt’s ignorance of suicide and depression are glaringly obvious. While I will not tell the readers I am an expert and I have all the answers, I will write to help ease the minds of those who have read his insensitive and dismissive blog. I will be the first one to say that I do not know but that does not mean I will pretend to know. I will seek out the truth and try and figure out how to help those with depression and are suicidal. The only thing that seems to have resonated from this blog by Matt is that it gets people talking. It got me talking and I hope it gets you talking. Lets raise awareness and get people talking about the issues in a hope that more people will seek out answers and more people will try and help those in genuine need.

As for me, I will always remember Robin Williams as a hero. A hero that I hope will inspire generations to talk and learn more about mental illness without fear of stigmatization. Robin made millions laugh and while his death is still fresh in the memory of the world, hopefully we can help others reach out for the help they need when dealing with their depression.

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