On August 5th, we memorialized my brother. I never really thought I’d say that, especially when I am only 42 and my brother not quite 46.

Scott family pic

I can honestly say that July 30th was probably the worst day of my life. It was the day I found out my brother had died and how he had died – he had taken his own life.

My brother suffered from mental illness, and he had a lot of ups and downs. I had always known this was a possibility, but you never think something like this will really happen to someone you love – because you love them. You can see, even if they don’t, how much people care.

The thing about mental illness, though, is that it steals people from you because it lies to you. It makes you believe you are all alone and nobody cares.

As I stood and received hugs and condolences from a stream of people, I realized just how much mental illness had stolen from my brother.

Neighbors came through the line – people I had never met – that told me about how much they enjoyed talking to and knowing my brother. One gruff older man, with tears in his eyes, told me how much his grandchildren miss my brother because he would walk by with his dogs all the time, and he would take the time to interact with them.

I can’t tell you how many people, some I knew and some I didn’t, that said the words to me, “I just loved your brother,” or “he was such a special guy,” or “he had such a big heart.”

My brother had no idea the impact he made on those around him. On Wednesday, as we remembered how much my brother was loved, it became clear just how much mental illness had stolen from him and from my family.

I have lost other people I loved – all of my grandparents, a good friend – but there is something different about the grief that comes when someone takes their life.

There is the almost irresistible temptation to start asking “what if.” What if I had called him more? What if I had gone over to his house during that last week? What if I had reached out more or invited him to dinner more or to lunch more? What if I had made him get help?

What if and if only leave the bitter taste of regret in my heart.

At my brother’s memorial service it became very clear to me that no matter what I did or didn’t do, mental illness deceived my brother. It twisted his reality so he felt hopeless and helpless.

The saddest, yet also comforting thing to me is that as a believer, my brother was never truly alone – not even in his last, darkest moments because he was a believer. God promises that He will never, ever leave us. Even at the moment my brother took his life, God was right there. Even though my brother felt completely alone, he wasn’t.

I hope and pray that my brother’s death will have meaning and purpose. I hope that it will start a conversation that must be had in our churches – how can we support, encourage and help those with mental illness? How can we help their families?

We have to stop avoiding the topic and hoping it will go away. We have to stop guilting people into thinking if they were just more spiritual, they could overcome their mental illness.

No amount of Bible reading and prayer will cure manic depression. No number of church services will cancel out clinical depression. You can’t spiritualize your way out of being schizophrenic. And we need to stop making people feel guilty because they can’t overcome mental illness on their own.

Yes, God can certainly heal – just as He does in cases of cancer or other serious illnesses – but if He doesn’t, then we need to walk with those people who are suffering, just as we would if that person had a disease that affected his body instead of his mind.

At the memorial service, we remembered who my brother was and that he was so much more than his mental illness. I pray we can continue that conversation.

Blessings, Rosanne

Blessings, Rosanne

10 Comments on What Mental Illness Stole From my Brother

  1. Thank you Roseanne!!! Until Kody died, I never knew what depression really was. I have never been in church where they have ever spoken on mental illness. To be quite honest, I kind of got sick of people telling me that “God is with you”. As a believer, I know this well and totally believe it but that did not help my depression. I am on medicine and would totally stand up in front of the church or anywhere else and tell others! I am not ashamed to be on meds, some people just want to keep it hush hush. Not me, I praise God for the medicine that HE provided and as far as I know, I have no plans on getting off of it. God made the meds and doctors for a reason and yes, I believe God heals but I also think God wants us to be smart about taking care of ourselves. Thank you so much Roseanne…something I have wanted to say for a long time…you said it all!

  2. Thank YOU, Rosanne, for your transparency, your honesty, and your challenge to the Church…its leaders and its members! I do pray that what you have chosen to ‘air’ in writing will be taken to heart…and resound to ALL peoples.

  3. Rosanne, I was so sorry to hear about Scott. Your eulogy was beautiful, and I’m sorry he struggled with mental illness. Thank you for your honesty. I pray many people will be helped through your words. I’ll be praying for you and your mom and dad.

  4. Thank you so much, Roseann, for the beautiful post. I have seen mental illnesses slowly take away people I knew and loved. It is obvious that you loved your brother very much – isn’t it wonderful to have the glorious hope of eternal life?

  5. Thank you. I suffer from bipolar depression and often feel like nobody loves me, nobody cares about me and nobody would miss me if I was gone. Your blog really helped me see my life from an entirely different perspective. Thank you for sharing.
    ❤️Terri D

    • I’m really glad this post was an encouragement to you. Please know that there are people who would not only miss you, but be devasted by your loss. (((hugs)))

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