There's some great discussions going on at Beyond Blue, concerning Heath Ledger's Death and the stigma surrounding mental illness. Theresa is an inspiration to me. She recommend a book, by William Styron called "Darkness Visible", which I've been reading, and found useful in this discussion.
Theresa's post here, inspired me to give my opinion when it comes to mental illness and the "realness" of it
Heath Ledger’s death or maybe the reaction to his death has struck a deep chord in my soul. Whether he intentionally overdosed on drugs or his death was an accident, hasn’t been determined yet, but that doesn’t stop the speculation. Reading a couple of articles about Heath Ledger’s death and how some of his family are quick to say, “oh no, he wouldn’t do that, “ in regards to him committing suicide, makes me ponder about why they would rather believe he died accidently as opposed to him taking his own life. Either way, he’s still dead. I get that with suicide, family and friends are left to deal with the implications of guilt and blame, and the unanswered questions; Could I have prevented this? Could I have helped them? But, say they did commit suicide. Does that mean they have a lesser character than the person that accidently died? Does it mean they are damned to hell? Or does it mean something else?
I’ve been reading a book called “Darkness Visible; a Memoir of Madness” by William Styron. He recalls his personal struggle with depression and the struggles of those surrounding him in the literary community. One story he recounts is of this professor that died when his car swerved into a semi. He was killed instantly. The coroner’s report ruled it a suicide. The community rallied and protested, saying he was, “a good man”, with “strong moral fiber”, and he just wouldn’t have done something like that. The coroner, weeks later, changed his report to saying that the death was “accidental”. Styron talks about how everyone that was close to this professor, knew he was depressed, and had in fact attempted suicide a few months earlier than the car crash. Styron wrote,
“Randall Jarrell almost certainly killed himself. He did so not because he was a coward, nor out of any moral feebleness, but because he was afflicted with a depression that was so devastating that he could no longer endure the pain of it.”
Heath Ledger’s death caused me to pause and consider the stigma surrounding mental illness. Some people might not “believe” in depression or they might encourage their friends that show signs of mental illness to “snap out of it”. Or they might accuse those on medication of “rely(ing) on pills for every little emotion” or “sickness” that comes their way.
I think there’s wisdom in the words of William Stryon in an editorial to the New York Times after the death of his friend:
“The pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those that have not suffered it, and it kills in many instances because it’s anguish can no longer be borne. The prevention of many suicides will continue to be hindered until there is a general awareness of the nature of this pain. Through the healing process of time, and through medical intervention or hospitalization in many cases, most people survive depression, which may be its only blessing; but to the tragic legion who are compelled to destroy themselves there should be no more reproof attached than to the victims of terminal cancer.”
I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on the subject of mental health. I’m only on my way to getting a bachelor’s in psychology. And I’ve also struggled with depression from an early childhood age. I just feel that I need to convey what I and countless others have experienced. Depression is real, and can make a huge impact, even take a life.
Whether you want to call mental illness such as depression or bipolar or schizophrenia a disease or a disorder, I don’t care. But, DO NOT DISCOUNT IT. It’s been my personal experience that mental illness is absolutely real, and absolutely CANNOT be ignored. I have a message for those of you that are sick and tired of people “relying on pills”. For those people that consider depressives to be “lazy” For those that think that mental illness doesn’t exist. Listen up:
How dare you judge me or anybody else for taking medication to better my psychological and physical health. I take my medication for my own well-being, and for the people that love me, and want to see me succeed in life. I take it to live a productive life. It would be irresponsible of me to stop taking the medication that I take, simply because it’s “frowned upon” or taboo in casual conversations. I could go along with the crowd, and try to “think positive thoughts” or fall in line with everybody else while a storm rages on in my brain. I could go along, unquestioning life, perhaps Brave New World style, but I choose to improve myself. For those people, and you know who you are, I’m asking that you show compassion for your fellow man. I’m asking that you treat every human with the dignity they deserve. And don’t we all need to take the plank out of our own eyes, before we attempt to take the speck out of someone else’s?
Thanks for listening (or reading, I guess) I’d love to open a dialog about this subject. Feel free to comment or question or shout, or anything like that.
P.S.: I’ll get off of my soapbox now :)
Now playing: Kings of Convenience - I Don't Know What I Can Save You From