Amongst the outpouring of grief, celebration of life, & criticism of other people’s reactions (see Richard Herring’s Twitter feed) an interesting but ultimately rather sad discourse emerged today about the nature & treatment of mental illness. On the one hand, there has been the expected contingent of uninformed trolls, spouting offensive crap demanding to know how it can be that a rich, sucessful, white, male celebrity has the timerity to be depressed about anything. How dare they!
There have also been the more compassionate voices pleading that anyone out there with suicidal thoughts remembers that support is available, and that they don’t have to suffer alone.
Concerningly though, a 3rd strand to this discussion has bitterly sought to highlight that this so called ‘support’ is frequently unavailable or inadequate.
I have quite a few friends who have varying levels of mental health issues. Some of them feel that they have received a decent level of treatment from their medical practitioners. Others have struggled to get any recognition for their problems at all. From this I surmise that it is something of a crapshoot as to whether you will receive the help you need, even if you are in a state to both acknowledge that help is needed and to ask for it.
One might be forgiven for coming away from the media (both social and er, the old fashioned kind) today feeling dispirited about humanity, in large part because of all the other atrocities taking place around the globe at the moment, and not just the tragedy of one beloved performer. And for all the well meaning messages about asking for help, if you don’t have any confidence that the help is there even if you do ask for it, I imagine that is of limited comfort.
I have no direct experience of mental health support, so I don’t feel remotely qualified to state that the current provision is or isn’t working, other than my 2nd hand experience of other people who clearly think that it’s not all it could, or should, be. I do think this is one of those cases where it’s easier to measure failure than success. That the headline grabbing times when nothing works can drown out the daily occurances of people fighting and winning against the black clouds that surround them. When just getting through the day is an achievement, I can’t imagine how much harder it is to feel like you’re surrounded by people saying the whole system is broken.
Someone I know suggested on Twitter today that if you don’t suffer from mental health issues then take the opportunity to reach out to someone who does. So to any of my friends who need it, consider this an open invitation. I can’t guarentee I can help. I can’t guarentee anyone can help. But I am happy to try.