Life is full of ironies. On one hand there are thousands of people who value life. Hence they take whatever precautions they can against diseases like SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). On the other hand there are people who choose to end their life. Like top-notch Hong Kong actor Leslie Cheung, who jumped to his death in Hong Kong’s Central District, April 1st.
Why did he do it? From the information gleaned from various press releases various possibilities come to mind. Evil spirits could have influenced him. He had been working on a show featuring ghosts and spirits just prior to his death. Friends had noted that his behaviour and mood had changed since his involvement in that movie. I have been in ministry long enough to take seriously the reality of evil spirits.
Maybe he was depressed over a possible break up of a key relationship. It was rumoured that he was gay. If that is true he was probably already a very lonely man. And if indeed he had broken up with his “companion” he could have been in sufficient emotional pain to want to take his life.
We are also told that he was a perfectionist. That wouldn’t have helped. If you are an out and out perfectionist, life is just one long string of disappointments.
The one clue that emerged from his suicide note was the word “depression”. His suicide note, written in Chinese, reads:
“Depression! Thank you to the fans. Thank you to Prof Mike (his psychiatrist). It has been a year of suffering. Thank you Mr. Tong (his companion). Thank you Fei Che (Lydia Sum). In my life I have done nothing wrong. Why it has to be like this(sic)?” (the STAR, 3 April 2003)
Depression is a prevalent and much misunderstood condition. There are various types of depression. It could range from a bad case of the blues to full blown clinical depression that requires psychiatric help.
Clinical depression happens for a variety of reasons. It is a situation where one’s brain biochemistry becomes unbalanced. Treatment will normally require medication and talk therapy among other things. Antidepressant medications slowly bring the brain’s biochemistry back into balance. They do not relieve the symptoms immediately. That is why antidepressants are not addictive. When the biochemistry regains its balance, the symptoms will go away.
Asking a depressed person to ‘snap out of it’ does not help and may make the person feel worse. The depressed person needs a lot of love, acceptance, understanding, and prayer. He or she also needs time for the medication and counselling to take effect. That may take months at the earliest.
The basic manifestation of depression is the loss of mental, emotional and physical energy. Your body shuts down. You lose the capacity to enjoy life. Even the simplest of tasks feels like climbing Mount Everest. Since you don’t have energy for life, and the condition is so painful, and feels like it is never going away, you think about suicide. Some go beyond thinking about suicide and actually take their lives.
How do I know so much about depression? I have been down that road before.
I thank God for the friends who were there for me. I thank God for a caring and competent Christian psychiatrist who was there for me. I thank God for the many who prayed. I praise God for His gracious care. They all helped me walk through that “darkest valley”. And emerge the other side.
I think of the Leslie Cheungs of this world. Clearly talent, success, and money are no antidote to despair. We knew that didn’t we?
I also note that in his suicide note, Leslie Cheung thanks his psychiatrist. Now I thank God for caring and competent psychiatrists. They have blessed me. I wish more people would not see consulting psychiatrists as taboo.
Yet clearly the final and definitive answers to humankinds’ deepest needs go beyond all branches of medical science.
Who will save us from demons, sin, meaninglessness and death?
Thank God that Jesus Christ has done just that on the cross. And has demonstrated that victory through His resurrection.
“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins. He cancelled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross. In this way, God disarmed the evil rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross of Christ.” Colossians 2: 13-15 NLT
It appears to be too late for Leslie Cheung. It is not too late for us to seek help if we need it.
And it is never too late to share the life-giving gospel to a dying world.
your brother, SooInn