It has been suggested that the public discourse on suicide and depression has stepped up a level upon the heartbreaking death of Robin Williams this week. I think that’s a reasonable call. There have been calls to take the guilt tripping and calls of selfishness out of the suicide lexicon, which is a decent step in the right direction. Still, I find the talk of mental illness in general to be condescending and fundamentally dishonest. Mark and I once did an interview with Music Feedback, an organization that highlights musicians’ experiences with mental illness and tries to encourage other people to be more open: “Musicians talk about mental health, so can you.” Of course, a positive message is what they wanted. But I was quite depressed when we did the interview, and failed to impart much positivity. At one point they asked if the creative process was something that helped with these things. My answer is cut and they skip straight to Mark’s. I said that it didn’t. The music industry is a cluster fuck, not good for mental health at all.
The final piece censored my distinct lack of positivity, and additionally, they never pushed our interview through their social networks as they had with the other participants*. On one hand, I thought this was fair enough as they have objectives with this project, and I wasn’t really on the same page. On the other hand, I was fucking pissed off that I’d been asked to discuss depression and had my negativity undermined and ignored. I wanted to talk honestly about the problem. It was very disrespectful, and I think that this reflects pretty strongly the implication that depression isn’t real, isn’t based on real life, is all in your head, ring Beyond Blue and get over it already. Don’t talk about it publicly unless you have a solution to share.
I hate the way we tip toe around this thing, the way we inject positivity into all of the discourse as if any admission of bleakness will be taken as permission for suicide. If there’s any truth in this world, it’s embedded in depression. Are we all just trying to convince ourselves that we’re ok, even though we’re terrified and living an existence that makes no sense? We’re trying to create healthy people in a very sick world. Maybe we’re supposed to be depressed. We insist that people shouldn’t feel like a burden. You know what though, ask my girlfriend whether a depressed person is a burden. Other people’s depression is exhausting, it rubs off on you after a while. Can we please stop lying about it all the time? We’re molly-coddling people, making them feel like all of their negative feelings are lies. But they’re not lies. The people that love you will be patient, and will wear it. Professionals are trained to deal with it. But it’s real. Embedded in this is the obsolete suggestion that a human life is sacred, even though our behavior throughout history and, more pertinently, right now, suggests that human life, or at least human life in the third world, is worth less than our right to drive cars whenever we want. Additionally, we are over-populated. Our lives are not sacred. I’m not trying to encourage suicide, I’m trying to suggest that depressed people aren’t idiots, they know when you’re lying, they know that on paper, virtually every individual human being is a negative attribute for the planet. Bullshit solves nothing. We’re trying to create happy people in a very sad world.
Now, we’re running through the roundabout of shallow, deceitful discussion on mental illness because someone talented died. Williams was 63 and looked good on paper. Do you think he had a solution just around the corner? Do you think he could have called a helpline and it would have been ok? Do you think that maybe his depression was permanent and he didn’t want to play the ‘trying to find a way to be ok’ game anymore? I’m sure we’ve all seen the meme “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. It’s a lie. Suicide is a permanent solution to a permanent problem. If you think the former, it’s probably because your particular instance of depression isn’t pervasive enough for suicide. Mine isn’t either. It’s sure as shit not temporary though. As well intentioned as it all is, it’s just not the truth. It reeks of capitalist propaganda, of subduing dissatisfaction with this ludicrous society we’ve created. It’s not a burgeoning mental health crisis, it’s a society becoming aware of itself on a level previously unseen. Maybe positivity is the delusion.
We’re getting closer by taking the stigma out. Let’s see what we can do about the bullshit.
*A quick defence of Music Feedback – they are a organization formed for positive reasons, aimed at encouraging people to talk openly about their troubles. I’m still grateful they took the time to talk to us – publicity is publicity, and free publicity is free publicity. Also, as I linked to their website, I discovered that our interview is currently up on the landing page, so that partly negates what I said about our interview being buried. It’s still edited to be more positive than it was.