Shortly after his death, our very own Cate Reddell shared a petition started by Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Founder of SumOfUs.org. She signed it and encouraged the rest of us to sign it as well.
Of course I went to check it out because I value Cate’s opinion very much so if she considers something worthy of sharing, chances are it is of foremost importance. As I read, I became more and more indignant. Not because of the petition itself but because of what moved the very founder of SumOfUs.org to start it.
Please allow me to share some parts of the petition (also, please bear with me, as this post will have several links to external articles. I feel they are necessary to give context to it):
“Whatever Williams’ reasons are, it is inappropriate for Fox News’ staff to air their insensitive opinions. It is offensive to Williams’ loved ones — and the loved ones of the millions of others who’ve lost their lives to suicide. I know, because my own partner killed himself a year and a half ago — and if someone had called him a coward for what he did, it would have cut me to the quick.
Even more importantly, Fox is perpetuating dangerous and completely wrongheaded views of mental illness. Depression is a disease, and belittling its millions of victims could even make them less likely to seek help.“
Emphasis is from Ms Stinebrickner-Kauffman.
So here is the thing.
As someone who has had to deal with suicidal thoughts on a regular basis, I was deeply offended by the comment. I am not alive today because I am not a coward. I am alive today because I was lucky/fortunate/blessed enough to have had people around me who cared to pull me out and keep me safe. Most importantly, I was lucky/fortunate/blessed enough TO HAVE BEEN ABLE to still hear them and to convince myself to keep going. If not for myself, then for my kids and others who loved me.
But there is always the chance that no matter how much you are loved, how much you are aware you are loved and how much you love them back, you’ll be so far gone, you won’t be able to come back.
And that has NOTHING to do with cowardice. Or lack of love. In fact, our brain might even trick us into thinking that they will be much better off with us gone. Such is the tragedy of mental illness. That it is quite capable of convincing us that our loved ones’ lives will be better if we remove ourselves from them. To paraphrase John Coffey, mental illness kills us with our love.
Please understand that this is not about crucifying a person, in this case Fox News host Shepard Smith. He’s since apologized for what he said. And that’s nice, I suppose. However, the cynic in me can’t help but wonder if Mr. Smith would have apologized had Ms Stinebrickner-Kauffman not decided to get involved. The cynic in me wonders if the apology is nothing by PR damage control and Mr. Smith was made to apologize by Fox’s executives. But! the honourable thing to do is to give him the benefit of the doubt and that’s that.
Incidentally, I am yet to see a public apology by Fox itself.
Nonetheless, I fear that way too many people may still agree with the comment but just keep it to themselves only because it is politically incorrect to say it out loud.
That is the nature of the stigma.
And that is precisely the reason for my post. Because much needs to be done still. Take this quote from for example:
While it’s not surprising (though still disappointing) to see someone criticize Williams for reaching such an anguished emotional state that death seemed to him the only way out, one would think folks could keep these sentiments to themselves — especially in the immediate aftermath of the tragic revelation.
That might be understood as ‘it’s ok to think it, but for odin’s sake, don’t say it out loud cause that’s just bad form’.
That may or may not be the case, of course. Or rather, that might be the case for some people but not all. Nevertheless, that is precisely why I think something has to be done. I am glad to see that ever since beloved Robin Williams left us, a lot of pictures, memes and tributes are doing the rounds through the various social networks reminding people that talking about mental illness and suicide is not only OK but also necessary. And that suicide has nothing to do with cowardice or lack of trying. That’s a good thing.
Then, I guess it is up to us to keep the conversations going. Which we are undoubtedly doing already. More power to us!
I just wish it didn’t take a lost life (and a famous one, at that) to be a reminder for the world. And what of the countless nameless lives that are lost everyday?
Thank goodness for Canvas and the many other groups that allow and empower individuals to do the brave thing, the uncomfortable thing which is to talk about our personal journeys, as painful as that may be.
For that, I am grateful. Cause otherwise, I might very well be just one more of those countless, nameless losses.
Let’s continue to be a beacon of hope for those who are in walking the dark so that they may find their way back into the land of living.
Mr. Robin Williams, many thanks for all the great moments you gave me. You made me think, you made me look inside myself, you made me laugh and you made me cry. Your movies were and still are a continuous source of inspiration. I hope you are in a good place now, happy and not burdened anymore, just as in that wonderful movie of yours, What Dreams May Come.
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