Perez Hilton had something that caught my attention a few days ago. It was a picture of a young actress from a popular TV show. I stopped because I recognized her and was shocked when I read the blurb above the photo. Apparently she attempted suicide a few months ago, supposedly over financial troubles she had been facing.
What was even more shocking (or not shocking sadly, given the amount of internet trolls out there) were the comments. Within minutes there were dozens of people who were all too happy to say how ‘stupid’ she was for attempting suicide over money, or for any reason at all. One person even called her, ‘a waste of a human’.
This got me to thinking. Why do we shame people for this? If this girl had died no doubt people would be saying what a tragedy it was and how she was too young to be gone. Sure some of the internet garbage would rear their ugly heads and call her stupid and say how happy they were that she was dead because she was so ‘ungrateful’ for all she had, but largely, the posts would have been respectful. Instead the comments from having survived an attempt were mostly hate filled.
It just goes to show the stigma that is still in existence when it comes to suicide. Sadly a lot of people have experienced this in their own lives. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone who has attempted and lived to tell about it. It’s not uncommon to be left with less friends and family support than before. While people will show up and cry at a funeral, they’ll scatter like cockroaches instead of having to face the living. So I wanted to take this opportunity to speak to the people who shamed this young woman. No doubt it’s not their first time doing something so unfeeling, but just in case it might reach someone, I wanted to say it, so here goes.
Dear Suicide Shamers,
I’m asking you to stop, but not for the reasons you might think. Likely a celebrity will never see your mindless reaction (although they very well could) to their attempt, but this is the age of social media. Do you have friends and family you love and care about? I’m sure you do. When you shame one person for attempting suicide or having suicidal thoughts you shame us all. And yes I am putting myself in that category. I have been pretty open about my struggle with mental illness on this blog and had a very serious attempt when I was about nineteen years old.
Imagine for a moment that a suicidal friend came to you and told you how they were feeling. If you were to react with vitriol and hate the way you do on social media they would not only be very hurt but they would also never talk to you about it again.
Because they opened their mouth and got disgraced they likely will not talk to anyone else either. This is bad. The last thing you want is for the ones you love to hold that in and keep silent about it, leaving it to fester until one day they can no longer stand it.
Let’s say we’re friends and I saw your post on a Perez Hilton’s Facebook page calling someone else ‘stupid’ or ‘ungrateful’ over a suicide attempt and I was having similar thoughts. I would most likely NOT talk to you because now I’d be afraid of your reaction.
I can hear you now. “Well I would tell them they were stupid. Suicide is stupid and there’s no reason good enough to do it. If you think so then you are stupid.”
Hey, you’ve got a right to your opinion. Opinions are good. Would you risk the life of your loved one to express it though? You saying such a thing to someone at such a time only serves YOU! It does NOT repeat NOT do anything for your friend. Even if your bashing convinces them not to go forward in the moment there’s a good chance they’ll feel that way again in the future. Guess what they won’t do next time? That’s right. They won’t talk to you. Even if you tell them, ‘you can always talk to me’. You can spout those words all you want from that point on…I’d never risk taking my feelings to you again.
So the question becomes, “Do I want to serve myself, or do I want to serve the one I love?” Think hard about that before your gut reaction to explode on them (or anyone else publicly) comes spilling from your lips or your fingers online. Once words are said they can never be unsaid. Do you really want to play Russian roulette with their life to satisfy your ego? If you consider yourself a good and loyal family member or friend I hope the answer will be no.
Life is hard. Money isn’t everything and despite what a person may appear to have, please remember, the brain is a powerful organ and can bring people to their knees. If someone you know is depressed telling them that other people have it worse is also something you say to satisfy your ego. It makes the subject about you, and how much better you are because you see things more clearly. Don’t do that either!
Hey, we’re all just looking for a little understanding. We all just want to be heard and valued. If someone you love comes to you and lets you know that they are depressed and/or thinking of ending it all, please know that by confessing this to you they have given you a precious gift. They are literally turning to you and handing you their life, their trust. Trust is like a very thin pane of glass. You need to handle with care and put that person’s life above your own high minded moral notions and get them some help.
An appropriate response is something like, “I am so sorry you are hurting so much. I had no idea. Let me take you to the hospital/doctor. The only thing I want is for you to be ok and I will help you do whatever you need to do to make it ok. I don’t want to lose you.”
Sometimes that’s all it takes. It’s very easy to spout hate or be pompous on the internet, but think before you do. You don’t know which of your friends might be watching and what their reactions might be. Really, would it kill you to be compassionate? Simply holding out your hand in kindness could save a life and you should extend that understanding to everyone. Everybody, famous or not, is someone’s loved one. Every life matters whether you believe it does or not and the actions of one person can touch many others, especially when technology has the power to carry your words so far and so fast.
Shame is wrong. Shame hurts. Shame kills.