“Robin Williams didn’t die from a disease, he died from his choice.”
That’s the title of blogger and radio show host Matt Walsh’s controversial blog post that he said immediately sparked a massive array of “hateful and violent” rebuttals. Walsh told TheBlaze that the reaction has been both diverse and overwhelming, with thousands of emails flooding in and readers raging against him on social media.
“I’ve had more people telling me to kill myself than ever before in my life,” Walsh said in an interview Wednesday.
Walsh said he initially assumed that his commentary, which addressed Williams’ death and some of the complex elements associated with suicide, would be confined to his typical readership circle after he posted it Tuesday. He said he was surprised to see it quickly go viral, sparking intense reaction across the board.
Suicide, Walsh said, is something that profoundly disturbs him. To summarize his views, he says that “depression is not a choice, but suicide is” — a contention that has led to intense debate.
“The complete, total, absolute rejection of life. The final refusal to see the worth in anything, or the beauty, or the reason, or the point, or the hope,” he wrote of the decision to take one’s own life. “The willingness to saddle your family with the pain and misery and anger that will now plague them for the rest of their lives.”
In his post, Walsh outlined why he believes suicide is both a mental and a spiritual infliction, but also ultimately a choice that an individual makes.
“What I’ve encountered in the last 24 hours [since publishing the post] — there are a lot of people who honestly believe that suicide is not a choice, when someone commits suicide they didn’t choose to do it,” Walsh told TheBlaze. “[That idea] takes hope away from a suicidal person. What we’re saying is that the suicide may just happen to you one day and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”
Walsh said it’s dangerous to convey the idea to a depressed or suicidal person that there’s no hope of relief from the pain they are suffering. He called depression a multifaceted problem and that both physical and spiritual matters need to be addressed when examining the issue of suicide.
“For anyone who is a theist and believes in God, then we know that we have souls, so our body and souls are intertwined. It’s not like our soul is contained in our body like a liquid,” Walsh said. “It’s interwoven with our body. They’re in harmony with one another. We are our body and we are also our soul. Anything at all effects both our body and our soul.”
Walsh called it ironic that some Christians will turn to prayer to address physical ailments like cancer, but won’t do the same when it comes to depression. While he said relying solely on prayer wouldn’t be something he’d endorse, the decision by some believers not to turn to God to address mental anguish confounds him.
“Whatever the issue is, whether it’s depression, anxiety, anger or more purely physical illnesses like cancer, I think we should look at every possible treatment or solution,” he said.
The writer also took issue with the now-viral tweet sent by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that was intended to commemorate Williams’ life. It read, “Genie, you’re free,” with a picture from “Aladdin,” the animated film in which Williams voiced the Genie.
“I wasn’t angry about it. I didn’t think that they were trying to say anything inappropriate. I was disturbed by it,” Walsh said. “Fine, well-intentioned, but you’re saying that a man is free after he committed suicide. No matter how you put it that is a tacit endorsement of what he did. It’s saying that he accomplished the goal of being free.”
The writer said his concern was over those individuals who might be depressed or suicidal and who might have seen the tweet as an encouragement for them to end their life so that they’ll be “free.”
As far as his critics go, Walsh added that many people have misinterpreted his words or simply failed to read his entire post. But among all the death wishes and critiques, he said he was most hurt by those who have alleged that he neither has personal experience with suicide nor depression.
“These are people who don’t have any idea what they’re talking about. I don’t want to get into details,” he said. “I have encountered suicide on a personal level, I have dealt with depression myself.”
Walsh said that the reactions he saw to Williams’ death and to his piece “portray a cultural attitude about suicide and depression that is problematic.”
This story has been updated to better reflect Walsh’s statements on how he comprehends suicide.