I’m not here to claim I was a Linkin Park fan. I wasn’t. But the death of Chester Bennington has again brought suicide and mental health to the forefront of discussions. Just like Chris Cornell before him. And Robin Williams. And Tony Scott. And a host of others.
And with these celebrity deaths come the discussions and the social media posts that range from empathetic to infuriatingly ignorant to just plain spiteful.
One comment I saw yesterday – “Selfish act.”
After Cornell’s death, I saw (paraphrasing) – “I don’t feel sorry for him; I feel sorry for his family.”
Comments I’ve seen in the past have thrown around the word “cowardly” or variations of “the coward’s way out.”
While it’s not necessarily my normal approach, it is somewhat refreshing to see replies to such statements with “fuck off” from people who are empathetic or sympathetic to the internal struggles of others. It’s a passionate response. It’s an emotional response. Crude? Maybe. But it’s real.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year.” That’s about 20 percent, so think of it this way: if you have 100 Facebook friends, about 20 of them have experienced mental illness. Some of them may have thought about or even attempted suicide. Those are your friends and family, and you just called them selfish or a coward. You just told them that if they were to follow through with it, you wouldn’t feel sorry for them – just their family.
Chances are, they didn’t respond to your comments on this issue. Chances are, you don’t even know they are struggling with something. Mental illnesses such as depression can be very isolating. It’s generally not something people are very open with. In fact, do some research on the term “concealed depression.” Here’s an article to start with: “15 habits of people with concealed depression.”
If you have not experienced mental health issues, that’s awesome. I’m not being sarcastic; I am genuinely happy for you. I remember very specifically telling someone that I was glad they didn’t understand what it felt like.
But if you don’t understand what it feels like, at least do your friends and family – the 20 percent, the ones who may conceal it – a favor by taking a moment to think before you speak. If you can’t empathize, try some sympathy. Try to understand as best you can. Try to react in kindness. Try to be helpful, and the first way to do that is by not calling your friends and family selfish cowards unworthy of your sympathy.