Trigger warning: Discussion on suicide and euthanasia.
I have something slightly controversial to say right now.. and please understand that what I am about to say does not mean that I, myself, am anywhere near to contemplating this or even saying that it is okay. It is never okay. Suicide is an end, and it hurts so many people around the one lost to us that they either don’t believe care as this is what the illness does, or they are simply beyond able to think beyond the dark thoughts.
Last night, I was happy. Things had been coming together, I was feeling loved, I’d had a lovely day in the charity shop sorting books, and a nice evening playing my current choice of game by candlelight and I was cheerfully rabbitting at my other half when he stopped responding. I turned around to ask him what was wrong when I saw Robin Williams’ face on the telly. He had BBC news on mute and reports were coming in of his death. At this point, suicide was only suspected but we since know that he died from ‘suicide by asphyxiation’. Social media exploded with cries of “tell me this isn’t true” and pourings of grief, some tweeting charities and numbers to call if you’re feeling depressed and/or suicidal. It was lovely.. but it was also a trigger paradise for those of us with mental illnesses ourselves, and also trepidation for the moments when people started to say ignorant things about how selfish suicide is, how Robin Williams had it all and had nothing to be depressed over.. the usual, basically. The trouble with these words are that mental illness can be likened to diabetes. When you suffer from it, it is a part of you. Some people are able to overcome it, most of us just learn methods to live with it, but for some it is so painful that living with it is nothing short of torture. These are the people most at risk of suicide, and while there are the cases in which people bottle it all up until it becomes too much for them, most have tried to seek help. They’ve visited doctors and therapists, tried different antidepressants and CBT courses, they’ve rung hotlines and ended up in hospital overnight, some even end up in long-stay clinics for safety, but none of it has worked and they continue to be tortured by their mental demons. Robin Williams was a known sufferer of bi-polar disorder and it was known that he has been experiencing troubles with his depression recently, that does not sound to me like a man who has not sought help. This was a 63-year-old successful and well-loved man. Suicide for him was not an escape. It was an end to the torture that was his mind. This is not a choice. It is not selfish. It is nothing short of euthanasia. An end to his many, many years of pain and suffering which he would have continued to live with. It doesn’t matter how much he had, how successful he was, or how well-loved he was, that would not have cured his depression any more than it could cure a diabetic of their need for insulin.
Please understand that I am not saying that I’m glad he died by suicide. I am deeply saddened that such a talented and bright man is gone from this world. And I am not saying that taking your own life is the answer. If anything, this only highlights the fact that the world desperately needs more resources and support for long-term sufferers of mental illness. Ways to make it more comfortable to live life even during the worst moments. It wouldn’t benefit just the mentally ill, but those who care about them, and those that have to deal with the aftermath. Wouldn’t it be a better world if when we are feeling at our worst, there was a place we could go where we could listen to uplifting music, hide in a blanket fort, and cry it out until the darkest part of the storm has passed, and when we come out, there’s a comforting warm drink and a loving arm waiting for us by the sofa and our favourite movie to watch with them? Perhaps that’s just my way of dealing with it, but the way the system works right now, there is so little support for people in those darkest moments that sometimes the only visible way to end their suffering is the most final. I wish it weren’t the case, but it is, and while the world sorts itself out, the mentally ill need to be respected and supported more, not told that, “It’ll get better, you’ll be okay.” Because guess what? For many of us, mental illness isn’t something that ever completely leaves us and it’s dismissive comments like this that are the reason so many turn to suicide, because it makes them realise that actually, it really won’t.
I’m going to end this post by recommending some resources and hotlines for UK sufferers because these are the ones I know about. First of all, Elefriends is a wonderful website where you can sign up anonymously and post how you’re feeling. You receive support from other sufferers who won’t belittle you because they are suffering too, and you can in turn give back that support to others who need it. Mind’s website has so much information on various mental illnesses, you can inform yourself on what you’re suffering with and get advice. They also have an infoline at: 0300 123 3393 which can give help on types of mental health, what kind of help you can get, where to get it. If you’re feeling a little more distressed and need somebody to listen, Samaritans have a great range of informed volunteers there 24/7: 08457 90 90 90. And if you’re at a point where you don’t feel especially dangerous but you don’t think anybody else can really help, Get Self Help has a great range of cognitive therapy information for you to read through and try out yourself. I, myself, have used this one and found it a great help. Finally, turn to somebody who you feel comfortable with. Talk about your problems, or just be around people. Family, friends, acquaintances.. if you’re unemployed and lonely, try volunteering. Charity shops are always looking for volunteers and it is so good to get out and about even for just a few hours per week. Don’t suffer in silence, reach out to the help and support that is available. Remember that depression and the others are an illness and you need to take care of yourself in order to get better. You always matter.