Trigger Warning: This post contains a (politically incorrect) discussion regarding suicide. Please read responsibly.
I started to title this, “If enough famous people die, will people finally start understanding?” but then I thought people would find that offensive. Then I argued with myself for quite a while about that, and finally caved into my inner critic. Obviously the victory wasn’t complete. I also have a running inner argument with posting trigger warnings.
Add Anthony Bourdain to the list, with Kate Spade, Robin Williams and so many others. With it you can add the ever growing clueless articles, posts, and comments (written and verbal) that show we still haven’t come very far in educating people about things like depression and bipolar disorders. Forget that nearly 25 million adults have been on antidepressants for at least two years, I don’t see the national (or world) view on mental illness having changed too much in many decades.
Before I go any further into this, I should state that I’m pro-choice. I think we should all have the right to humanely euthanize ourselves. If a cat can have that benefit then I think I should have it as well. At least I can make the decision for myself whereas a cat can’t.
“But he had everything, money, fame, family…it doesn’t make sense.” This is one of those inane comments that gets trotted out every time a famous person commits suicide, and one that millions of people shake their heads in agreement with. Money and all that can certainly help. If you don’t have to worry about basic survival issues, like being homeless, it can take some of the burden off a depression. This “he had everything” view of clinical depression or bipolar disorder (not sure if Bourdain had that) is just uninformed. Depression is an equal opportunity major disorder. It can run in families. It has nothing to do with spilling a latte on your new shoes. The prevalence of these types of comments are one indication that we have not made any progress in our collective understanding, and that there is still a stigma associated with the disorder and that adds to the deadliness of it.
“Suicide is just selfish.” How could a person do that to the others around him? Kettle? Black? If you are wondering how a person could do that to you then you are making his life, his pain, his issues, his decisions all about you. I think that defines selfish.
“Suicide is just the cowards way out.” People who have chosen to die (when another option is available) for a cause are revered as brave martyrs. That’s a type of suicide. Most of us are afraid of death, and I’m guessing that is true for most suicidal people as well, so stepping into that fear isn’t cowardice; it is something else.
“Seek professional help. Call the national hotline.” This advice is not wrong in and of itself, in theory, but the theory breaks down in practice. That’s another blog post, but I speak from experience on this one. I’ve read and heard way too many superficial, hand-wringing things aimed at people with suicidal ideation where it just boils down to “get a shrink, call the hotline” and I’m sure the person went away feeling all proud of themselves for “doing something” in giving that advice. Hashtag concerned do-gooding.
Suicide is as varied as the number of people who commit it. For some it is a valid choice. For others it is a stupid mistake. For some it has nothing to do with the people in their lives, for others it is a nasty fuck you to them.
I get angry when I read the crap that is written around anyone’s suicide. I’m angry writing this.
The CDC just published a new report on suicide and the results are staggering. The rates are rising, sometimes at an alarming rate, all across the nation. I urge you to at least read the press release on the CDC report. In some age groups suicide is the third leading cause of death. If a new virus was the third leading cause of death among white male politicians, we’d be throwing billions of dollars at it for a cure and public awareness. Of course deaths caused by guns (murder or suicide or accident), while it gets media attention, doesn’t really get any progress either. Yay us. Meanwhile our fearless leader is pissing off Canada. We really have our priorities straight around here.
One of my heroines, Jenny Lawson, just posted this on her Facebook.
People who are shocked that Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade are dead because “but they had everything!” clearly do not understand mental illness. It is as deadly as cancer. It tells terrible lies. Just because it’s not visible doesn’t mean it’s not real.
If you battle with mental illness and are reading this I am proud of you. You are still here. You are needed. You continue to fight and that is inspiring and often unrecognized. Thank you for fighting for yourself. You are worth it.