I remember hearing the news that Robin William had committed suicide almost three years ago. It hit me pretty hard. I was actually in the midst of a bout with Depression, so that probably contributed to the feeling of deep sadness. I wasn’t really a Williams fan. Still, I remember mourning because I knew he was a good and personable man who used his celebrity for causes. And, of course, he had his struggles.
Last week’s suicide of Chris Cornell hit me somewhat similarly.
I don’t want to speculate anything about what led to Cornell’s suicide. I do want to say that while I wasn’t a follower of him, my love of Pearl Jam music meant at times I’d hear the stories of Cornell’s trailblazing the grunge sound and the Seattle scene. He was a music pioneer who helped define music of the 1990’s and a style of music I continue to enjoy today.
Cornell deserved to live, as did Williams … not just because the two were great talents and pioneers. They deserved to live because they were humans who had a lot to live for.
Still, I remember a short conversation I had with someone last week about Cornell’s death. This person wondered — as many people do — “How could he have done such a thing?! He had a family; he had children. Shouldn’t he have felt he needed to be there for them?” Some people take this even further. The see suicide as an act of selfishness; an act of abdicating your responsibilities to the ones you love.
I think that type of thinking is hogwash. And it definitely comes from people who come from a place of ignorance about mental illness.
Depression can make someone feel not only like you can’t be there for your loved ones, you often feel like you are a drain on them and the rest of the world. Anxiety can introduce debilitating thoughts of incredible fear and physical manifestations of extreme pain. I can understand why one who suffers could imagine the world and their loved ones would be better without them. While I’ve never contemplated suicide, I have wondered — while I was facing extreme levels of Anxiety and Depression — “Why would anyone decide to love me? How can they handle the drain of energy and happiness that this black hole of me has become?”
Mind you, I’m not advocating suicide. I’m simply saying that while you are in the depths of a struggle with either or both of the illnesses, that you can feel that in addition to escaping the pain, you think you would actually be making things better for those around you.
That’s one big reason why the stigmas attached to mental illness must disappear. It’s why we need to talk about suicide. And we need to be there for those who suffer. They may see an option that the rest of us would never contemplate.
Lastly, we need to be there for those who are suffering from either or both of extreme Anxiety or Depression because while they may be feeling terrible now, better days are likely ahead. Meds (or a change in them) along with visits with a therapist can often help someone escape the depths of pain, Depression, Anxiety, loneliness, and fear. The sufferer may not be able to see this; it may be our job to help them see this future.