Suicide is not selfish, nor is mental illness an addiction.
Mental illness is not an addiction. An alcoholic can get treatment and abstain from alcohol, as difficult as it is. A drug user can do the same.
Someone with mental illness can get treatment but cannot abstain from mental illness or its triggers. There is no cure for mental illness. One can get better with treatment, but that doesn’t mean life is “normal”. It’s work…every single day. It’s hard.
Some who have mental illness try to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, to numb the pain. I believe that there are many addicts who suffer from mental illness and just don’t realize it.
After the news broke of Kate Spade’s completed suicide, I chatted with a woman online regarding the situation. She, and others, made it blatantly clear that Kate was being selfish because she had a daughter, and as a mother she should be putting her child first.
She said, “[Kate Spade] has a young child. When you have kids, you put them before yourself. I could never imagine leaving my young daughter alone to fight the world… what will that do to her?”
Those who suffer from suicidal thoughts are convinced by their own mind that it is a selfless act and that their children, their family, and their friends are all better off without them.
I explained to this woman that the beliefs she’s holding onto are cemented in stigma; however, she denied she has any stigma related to mental illness. In fact, she continued by saying, “It seems as though she only thought about herself. With all that money, she should be able to afford the help.”
Of course, she could afford the help, but did she know that she really needed the help? For decades, I assumed how I felt was “normal”, that everyone felt like this and I just sucked at coping. Even as a child and teen, I didn’t share these thoughts due to having to be told, “You’ll get over it.” “Snap out of it.” “Just put on a smile, and quit complaining.”
Still, remaining adamant, she reinforced, “[I] wouldn’t say that [I’m] being judgmental at all…All I am saying, is that when you have kids, you put them before yourself. They (the mentally ill) need to step up and ask for the help. The first step to getting better, is to acknowledge you have a problem.”
I attempted to explain that acknowledging the “problem” and getting help is just not as simple as she feels it is. It IS a MENTAL illness, after all. Her response, “Not sure how [it’s not simple]. If an alcoholic or a druggy admits they have issues, AA for them.”
There was no getting through to her. Mental illness isn’t an addiction.
At this point in the conversation, I had to stop…for my own sanity. My anxiety was rising, and I was becoming angry. Angry that this type of stigma is still so strong within areas of our community.
“One of the main problems with mental illness is that it prevents you from behaving or thinking ‘normally’. A depression sufferer is not thinking like a non-sufferer in the same way that someone who’s drowning is not ‘breathing air’ like a person on land is.”
“Depression is a genuine debilitating condition, and being in “a bit of a funk” isn’t. …If you haven’t had it, you don’t have the right to dismiss those who do. You may disagree, and that’s your prerogative, but there are decades’ worth of evidence saying you’re wrong.”
So, what is it about Kate Spade that is bringing out this judgement? Is it because she’s a celebrity? No. I didn’t hear such things when Robin Williams (who has grown children), Chris Cornell (with children ages 12, 13, 17), or Chester Bennington (with children ages 7, 7, 16) passed away from suicide. Three days after Kate Spade was Anthony Bourdain’s suicide (child age 11). Is it because Kate is a mother? The loss of a parent is difficult, whether mother or father.
Why is there compassion for some and not others?
Let’s try to connect to one another, attempt to suspend our own opinions for a moment to see through another’s eyes, and empathize and support one another.
We’re all in this life together.
How have you been a victim of mental illness stigma?
First written and published in June 2018 on Medium.
Copyright © 2018 Alicia Rust. All rights reserved.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273–8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.