If you follow me on twitter you may (or may not) have seen my little outburst in defence of Robin Williams and all sufferers of depression and mental illnesses after hearing the offensive and inappropriate opinions of a radio presenter called Alan Brazil.
For those of you who haven’t heard what he said here it is…
It takes a lot to fire me up enough to provoke a rant online. I’ve become an absolute pro at biting my tongue and thinking twice before hitting that tweet button as I’ve discovered that even the most innocent of remarks can come back and bite you on the buttocks like squatting over a bucket of piranhas…naked. However, this time it was something that I couldn’t let slide and one of the rare occasions that I think my opinion might have some sort significance or positive effect. I don’t mean that to sound arrogant at all, I’m not suggesting for one minute that I am some sort of authority on mental illness or that my opinion is of more importance than anyone else’s (even Alan Brazil’s) but it’s the destructive aftermath of voicing an opinion like his on national radio on a subject as fragile as depression, suicide and mental illness that worries me and here’s why…
I imagine an opinion as a seed. If you plant it it will grow. If you have ignorant seeds, stupidity seeds and negative seeds and you plant them then that ignorant, stupid, negativity will grow and grow until it is far greater and far more powerful than the initial seed that was planted. There is a forrest of infectious misunderstanding surrounding mental health. It has taken a long, long time but we’re slowly cutting down those infected trees and planting new, healthy ones so that hopefully some day we’ll have an Endor sized forest of helpful, positive and educated opinions on mental health. By allowing this blundering Brazil to blast his bollocks over the radio the morning after mental illness took the life of an actor who was so obviously loved worldwide we are allowing someone to plant fresh, poisonous seeds of ignorance right in the middle of our gardens.
His suggestions of Robin Williams suicide being “selfish” and “diabolical” for which he has “no sympathy” were to me so incredibly painful to listen to. So, Dear Alan, if you’re reading this then here is a small insightful seed from the mind of just one person who suffers from depression. I’m lucky. My case is mild and controllable with the help of some medication and I am a fully functioning human for most of the time…but it’s still there. It’s there in my mind like a shadow. Most of the time the sun shines. Occasionally you get the odd cloud that might pop in and out for a while, sometimes for slightly longer or more frequently than you’d hope, but then someone helps you find the sun again. Sometimes though Alan, the storms come. I’m not talking about a light shower, I mean the full works. The darkest skies you have ever seen. So grey they could rival british summertime skies and each time they come they seem darker than the one before, like Harry Potter movies.
It’s so completely consuming that it is suddenly not only the only thing you know but the only thing you have ever known. All those coloured memories are now black and white. But the really weird thing about it for me is that when you’re in the middle of that storm it’s almost as if you don’t want a way out of it. You are in too deep, what’s the point in even trying to get out. Alan, it’s as though no one understands…When I’m not in a storm I can remember pretty well what it was like being in it, but when I am in the storm I can’t remember what it’s like ever being happy. It’s as if happy doesn’t exist. The storm becomes your new normal…or stormal if you will.
Luckily for me, I have a lot of people around me who have a fantastically healthy understanding of mental illness and not only put up with my craziness but help me through it. But when I hear someone like you casually spitting out words like selfish, diabolical and no sympathy I can start to see those clouds on the horizon and tress of bullshit casting shadows at the feet of the 350 million people worldwide that suffer from depression…and assuming they all have 2 legs that’s 700 million feet Alan, and an unfathomable amount of toes!
I don’t think Alan should be sacked as some people are suggesting, I’m sure he must very good at his job and we are all entitled to an opinion. It was just very insensitive and unhelpful to publicly voice such a controversial view at that time so I think he should be poked in the eye and then sent on some sort of educational course to open the eye we didn’t poke to the world that I and so many people live in.
I hope I just planted a positive seed.
If you’re struggling talk to someone… http://www.samaritans.org