Let’s Stop Blaming Suicide On Mental Illness
Suicide is on my mind this morning, as it is for many of us.
But these three in such a short time, are particular impactful because they were each at the top of the top of their respective fields.
I’ve been there myself, and the still scared part of my mind wants to use these three as examples of why there is no hope.
“How could someone who has ‘made it’ want to die?” my mind wonders. “And, what hope is there, then, for the rest of us who are trying to get “there?”
It would be oh so easy for me to wallow in those beliefs. I’ve been at the place of wanting to die before. Of course, haven’t we all?
It seems to me that the contemplation of suicide is a fairly normal part of being human.
And, honestly, in the full acknowledgement of the pain on our planet and what we are facing, I’d be truly concerned about anyone who doesn’t allow themselves to at least consider the possibility of death as the way out.
I remember the words of Krishnamurti, who says: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
The more we resist the reality of the pervasiveness sickness of our society, the more risk there is of not being able to heal through it.
Maybe, just maybe, I would have gone through with suicide too, if I had been as trapped in my identity and the social structures and projections that Avicii, Kate and Anthony most likely were.
Of course, I don’t know what their experiences were, or the pain or past traumas that they got stuck in and could not move beyond.
But I can relate it to my own experience and make some educated guesses.
From my experience, the more “successful” I was on the outside (and while I didn’t have worldwide fame, I “made it” to all the levels of traditional success one could hope for in this life time — million dollar businesses, TV appearances, house by the beach, Mercedes in the driveway, kids in private school, you know … the whole thing), the harder it was too be with my own internal experience of the deep pain of being human.
And the harder it was to admit I needed help, and ask for it.
There was such a dissonance between how I saw and felt myself, and the projections of the outside world — both the shadow and the light. And I had to hold it altogether, lest it all crumble around me and I let everyone (including myself) down.
If I couldn’t do it, how would anyone else? I couldn’t possibly let go because who would I be, if I did?
Fortunately, I had the support to collapse under the weight of all of it. Yes, you read that right — I had the support to collapse.
And that saved me.
It’s the trying to hold it altogether that makes it seem impossible to keep going.
I imagine Avicii, Kate and Anthony collapsed under that weight and didn’t have the support there, in that darkness, to just let. it. all. go. and rise again, in love.
Because here’s the thing I’ve discovered on the other side of each falling apart, it’s only in the full collapse and descent into the underworld that we can heal. But rarely if we have to go there alone.
Most people, (especially those who are most outwardly “successful”) do not have the support or space to collapse.
They have images and brands to maintain, and people around them who are highly invested in that maintenance, rather than in supporting them to let it all go, and fall fully apart.
Imagine the immense pressure.
As I remember my own version of it, I feel the tears coming. And the tremendous gratitude that I am able to sit here in a coffee shop and let those tears come, no matter how weird I may seem, without fear that my tear-stained, emotion contorted face will end up on the cover of a tabloid with all sorts of judgments projected upon me.
I don’t have to hold it all together. I can descend into the dark, ugly cry right here in public and know that it’s okay. I’m okay. But it wasn’t always that way, of course.
For most of my life, I had to hide too. I had an image to maintain, after all. And there was so much pain beneath my surface that I imagined if I let myself actually feel it, I would never be able to stop feeling it, and then what would I do? I would have to die.
In a way that was true. Something in me did have to die. And, being held in the pain of that dying, and feeling it all the way through, always led back to a deeper field of peace than I had access to prior.
Each time I let myself go there fully, another more resilient piece of me emerged, and lived on and through me.
Today, I have the space and freedom and ability to move the pain through myself quickly, feel it all the way, let it heal and then come back to the light and gratitude hiding right on the other side of the pain.
It took breaking through an idea of myself and an image that had locked me into the pain, and repeatedly brought me to the point of wanting to die because I couldn’t see any other way out.
Most people, certainly I imagine Avicii, Kate, Anthony, and so very many others, don’t have the actual support necessary to break free. And, the weight of that can lead to suicide as the only way out.
It makes sense to me.
Choosing Suicide Isn’t a Result of Mental Illness
I see the articles quoting family members talking about how a past history of mental illness or addiction is the explanation for these deaths, saying things like “s/he suffered with [addiction][mental illness] for years.” As if that explains it all. Because we need some way to make sense of how someone so successful could take their own life.
I imagine these explanations give comfort to those who might share my surface thought process of, “if someone so successful can’t make it, what hope is there for me?” It creates a safe separation between “us” and “them”, ie. “they” were mentally ill, and “we” are not.
Or the family members who may feel guilt that they couldn’t do anything. It’s so much easier to blame it on mental illness than to feel into the helplessness that their death brings up.
When I breathe more deeply into what’s true, I know that there is no real safety in this diagnosis of mental illness as an explanation. It’s simply another way to create separation.
We live in a sick world, and the sooner we all get right with that, and wake up to the mental illness that resides inside each one of us (and the striving for a “success” that traps us there), the sooner we can have some hope of healing and living the lives of freedom that are our true birthright.
No matter how much money or fame you have, if you cannot be supported in the truth of your particular brand of mental illness, it’s all a facade.
So maybe the label of “mental illness” helps the loved one’s of the deceased to alleviate their own guilt about not being able to help.
I wish, though, instead of blaming a suicide on mental illness, friends and family would be willing to take on all of that guilt and feel the pain of a world in which we do not know how to support each other.
From there, we can begin to heal, together.
By making suicide a result of “mental illness” we marginalize the parts of our own selves that want to die, push them into the shadows and create more of exactly what we don’t want — anxiety, depression, shame.
Descent into the pain is a necessary part of a healthy Life.
I’ve seen a few people share that they feel angry about these suicides. And, I get it. I imagine that anger may come from the unacknowledged pain within that gets provoked in the face of choosing suicide.
What if those who feel angry could have the support to feel the pain under that anger all the way through? How might that expand our capacity to be with the pain (and ultimate freedom) of others?
Friends, I welcome your anger. And I invite you to dive deeper into it, and feel what’s below.
Let these deaths be a call to each of us to feel ourselves more fully, to find the support we each need to dive into the pain and let it explode our hearts with the exquisiteness of feeling, and build the resilience that is here for us on the other side.
We are all going to die, one day.
We’re each dying right now.
Heck, many of us are already dead inside because the fear of feeling it all is so terrifying. The walking dead, zombies with massive amounts of pain lurking just below the surface.
Please, have the courage to feel it all, and be fully supported there.
If you are overwhelmed with the pain of life, and you need help in being able to move through to the next moment, tell someone you trust and ask them to not try and fix you, but instead to just hold you while you collapse, and feel it all.
If a friend comes to you in pain, don’t try to fix them. Just be with them in their pain. This usually means no words. Just being with them, and feeling your own pain in the face of theirs, without making it about you.
I know we have not been well-trained in this space of feeling, and it can be tempting to want to fix it or make it better. But the best thing you can do for someone in despair is to just be with them, let them feel what they are feeling and let them know that it’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.
It is not mental illness to feel so much. This is the path to our evolution. This is our work to do.
If you do not have anywhere else to turn, please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline: US # is 1–800–273–8255. Or text 741-741 for help 24/7. If you are outside the US, google Suicide Prevention to get the number to call for your country. And hold on until someone answers. All you have to do is say “help” and the person on the other end of the line will be there to support you. I hope. ❤