Suicide is Painful
Today’s offering has been sparked by the apparent suicide of the comedic genius Robin Williams. As I heard the news this morning around 12: 15 it occurred to me that this is not only a tragedy for his many fans, but also a wake up call for all of us when it comes to mental health. Now, of course, I am going to be making certain assumptions at this point as not all the facts are known regarding Williams, but I believe that much of what I am about to say is absolutely the case in the broader case that I want to put forward in that, for far too long, government, health professionals and society as a whole have paid lip service to the idea of the importance of mental health.
The truth is, there is no health without mental health and when I say mental health we must look beyond the simplistic ideas of the lay community about a person being mad or not. Insanity is really only the very tip of the mental health iceberg. Williams had a long public entanglement with drug use and sobriety, and one can ask whether it is the past drug and alcohol use which led to the severe depression which appears to have been the cause of his suicide. Of course, the drug and alcohol use may have been a way for him to cope with this depression just as easily as it being a cause of it. For many suffers of depressive conditions this is a real chicken and egg scenario.
I have seen both as a clinician and a human being the pain people endure in their lives and how drugs and alcohol can be used to ease it, because these people see that there is no other way. To go along side this, I have also seen professionally and personally how drug and alcohol abuse can create mental health issues as well. Now of course, usÂ folk who are not suffering can see that there are many ways that this suffering can be alleviated without drug and alcohol abuse, but all too often we do not see the pain that is around us. And when we do see it, we do not have the words or the skills as to how to support our loved ones through it.
If we are to genuinely be a compassionate society, we must take a greater responsibility in helping those who are suffering all around us, our family, our friends, our colleagues and let them know that they will not be judged by their struggle. Instead of judgement,Â we as human beings need to show love and support. As clinicians, we need to be better able to recognise that drug and alcohol abuse may not simply be an issue in itself, but rather a symptom of a greater problem. Finally, as a society, we need to de-stigmatise mental health once and for all and recognise that having a fit body is nothing without a fit mind as well.