SPOILER ALERT FOR ANY DOCTOR WHO FANS!!! I’m going to be talking about a Season 5 (Eleventh Doctor) episode today.
The episode features the Doctor and Amy, his companion, traveling back to nineteenth century France to meet Vincent van Gogh and take care of an alien he’d painted in a church. Whilst taking care of the alien, the Doctor finds van Gogh having an emotional breakdown that very much reminded me of my experiences with depression. Though there is no consensus about what van Gogh’s mental disorder was, the writers of Doctor Who portray it as a bipolar disorder. As I watched the episode, van Gogh mourning his loneliness, misery, and hopelessness, I was reminded of my own episodes of depression, feeling that I have no hope and I eventually all those close to me will leave me. Yet I can also relate to how only a little while later, van Gogh had cried it out and was a happy person again. He says that occasionally he’d be tormented by those moods, but then suddenly he’d be okay. Sometimes I feel like I can go days or weeks at a time feeling completely happy… and then an episode hits and I’m upset for a day, a few days, a week, or who knows how long. It wasn’t until the end of the episode when the Doctor takes van Gogh to the present day and he sees a museum full of his own work that he believes his life was worth something.
Depression, bipolar, and other mental disorders are a huge trial for many. One source I looked at said that about 10% of the US adult population deals with depression. Another statistic said that about 2.6% of the population deals with bipolar. Another thing I want to touch on here is suicide. Like van Gogh eventually took his life, there are many that feel mortality is too painful and so they take their own life to ease the pain. One website told me that in 2010 it was reported that there were 38,364 deaths in the United States. The same website says that 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death. And what about the other 10%? Does that mean that that 10% without a diagnosable disorder could have been helped? Perhaps saved?
Back in the 1980s, Elder Ballard said about suicide, “Obviously, we do not know the full circumstances surrounding every suicide. Only the Lord knows all the details, and he it is who will judge our actions here on earth. When he does judge us, I feel he will take all things into consideration: our genetic and chemical makeup, our mental state, our intellectual capacity, the teachings we have received, the traditions of our fathers, our health, and so forth.”
Recently, a member of the North Star Facebook group shared an experience related to suicide (and I share this story with his permission). His son’s best friend committed suicide. This man’s son was in tears the whole night, trying to make sense of the incident. I’m tempted to put up an LGBT suicide stat, but as relevant as that is, it really isn’t. It’s not about someone’s sexuality or lifestyle. It’s about showing love to everyone around you, like Christ would.
It’s important to show love to those around us, because as the saying goes “everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” but oftentimes we can’t see that. Like in the Doctor Who episode, the alien is invisible to all except van Gogh. He’s labeled as crazy and mad. Even when the Doctor and Amy try to help him with the alien, they’re left pretty helpless because the only person who can see it clearly is van Gogh. It is just like depression and other mental illnesses. I have felt many times like I am fighting an alien that only I can see.
There is help though. If you are struggling with depression, bipolar, or another mental illness, see a doctor or see a psychiatrist. All else fails, call this number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. Human life is too precious to give up so easily. Keep trying. No matter how many times you fall, keep trying, because you’ll make it to eternal life if you just keep trying to keep the commandments.