*The following post contains topics that may be triggering. Please ensure you are in a safe place before reading. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide then please call a helpline (Lifeline: 13 11 14 Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636), visit your GP or head to your nearest emergency department*
I ummed and ahhed about whether I should write this post. I’ve had my say on my Facebook Page, I thought that maybe that was enough. It will never be enough though.
Today the world lost another soul to suicide. The media announced this morning that authorities had received a 911 call to Robin Williams residence. The actor was found deceased in his home, with suicide being pointed to as the cause.
Robin Williams touched a lot of lives. Over the last few months there seems to be a lot of celebrity deaths, they seem to be coming in quick succession. However the outpouring of grief from the general public for Williams’ death has been something entirely different. Every second post on my social media was a tribute to the man and his contribution to the entertainment world. He touched a lot of lives.
The topic of the day has been suicide and the need for people to reach out for help. There have been a few posts about Williams’ death being the reason why we need to start the conversation about suicide. I don’t want to take anything away from this tragic event, and his grieving loved ones but unfortunately he is one of many people who will take their life around the world.
The time for the conversation was long before this death, and it was a lot longer before the last celebrity suicide too. Although the truth is that many of us started the conversation off our own backs. We live with thoughts of suicide, of self harm and feelings of despair every single day.
I think people are scared of starting the conversation. They are worried that they will say the wrong thing, that they won’t know what to do. The truth is that you might screw up, there probably will be times when you are absolutely stumped as to how to help your loved one. However that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
Start with a simple question ‘R U OK’. Be prepared to listen, to really listen. I always believe that if you don’t have the time or the desire to listen then it’s better for everyone involve if you don’t ask the question at all. Feeling alone is one thing, but to feel rejected after thinking you have someone who cares is like kicking them while they are down.
The most important part of asking how a friend is, is making sure you follow up. After a crisis it can feel overwhelming going back to normal life, and the quiet can be all encompassing. Send a text message, meet up for lunch or dinner, send an email..anything at all.
If you are struggling yourself, then please speak up. Tell a friend, your doctor, your partner, someone. Keep talking until someone listens. It will be scary opening up, you will feel anxious but when you find someone who takes you seriously, who cares, the feeling of relief is overwhelming.
The conversation started long before I started blogging. We still have a long way to go, there are still so many people suffering in silence and while we allow people to censor our words the stigma will continue. Until we say fuck you to those who are uncomfortable with our truth then more people will continue to be hurt.
I just had lunch with a friend who hasn’t had much to do with anyone who’s suffered from depression or anxiety but she was keen to hear what I thought about the passing of Robin Williams.
My friend had heard that there was some dissent from mental health organisations that didn’t endorse the Genie photo that went around, saying that it was too dangerously close in triggering people. While I disagreed, we were happy to hear both sides. I think that’s where it needs to start.
And lucky for me, I have a friend who’s open minded.
RIP Robin x
It’s definitely important to start with our close friends. Even if we don’t completely change their mind, at least we have given them something to think about.
Such a sad thought that even someone famous and apparently loved by many still felt there was no other option. Starting the conversation is important. I blogged similar last night when I heard the news 🙁
I think that is what has hit people the hardest, that his death really showed that mental illness doesn’t discriminate.
This is a really good post. You are so right, the conversation has been going on a while now. The thing we have to do is continue the momentum of that conversation with the aim to smash stigma and raise awareness, as well as continue finding new and better ways to deal with this tragic epidemic.
Yes, the key is definitely in not allowing the momentum to slow down. It’s great that people are coming on board more with the conversation, but it won’t be much use if everything goes back to ‘normal’ next week.
Thank you for your voice. You bring with you a lot of insight and personal experience, and everyone’s story is different. You are definitely doing your part to help raise awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.
Very well written, Tegan! I completely agree with you that the conversation about suicide within society has been a long time coming…And I think you raise a very good point here when you say that if a person is going to ask someone how they are, then they have to be willing to listen and be there if or when that person opens up…So many times I have tried to speak up a little to family and they just haven’t wanted to hear it or even try to understand…As a result, of course, I just withdraw even more, which then leaves me more isolated on those very dark days…And I know I’m only one of a million people with similar stories… The passing of Robin Williams is so tragic, and does seem to have hit home with so many people around the world…Let’s hope that perhaps his death can be a reminder to us all that depression is a real illness, and that anybody at all can succumb to it 🙁 x x
It can be pretty disheartening when you finally work up the courage to speak up and you are shot down. Robin Williams death really does seemed to have rocked a lot of people.
I wanted to hear what you had to say about this. I’m so thankful for your blog Tegan because it helps many people who don’t understand mental illness. I couldn’t believe the news when I actually read it on Facebook. But we don’t know the burdens people carry… Even those that make us laugh and smile.
I think that is why it has hit people so hard because he was a man who loved to entertain so people are struggling with what they believe depression and suicide looks like.
‘The quiet can be all encompassing…’ So true, so very true – people often forget that even though the moment of crisis may be over, the legacy remains, and the need for support is still there.
As always, I love and appreciate your honesty. Don’t ever be quiet…
Thank you x
As a ‘struggler’ (to use your word), it is difficult to speak up. I find the responses aren’t what I want. My husband has even asked me what response I do want, and honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know how the story should play out. I just want it all to be nicer, less angst and easier.
I think I need people to keep asking me. To keep reassuring me that it is ok to tell them that I am struggling, when and if, I feel the need to say so. To know that they will help. This means that others need to follow through with their promise to help. To check back and make sure that they are indeed helping.
I read this a couple of days ago, but it has taken me some time to respond. xS
I can relate to the feeling of not being able to get the response you want, yet not really knowing what that response is. I do think it’s important too that we keep checking in with people.