Ah social media. I have a little bit of a love/hate relationship with the thing. I love how it connects people; how people can share ideas and explore new things; and there’s the never-ending onslaught of news outlets trying to persuade me to come around to their way of thinking. It’s magical….
But I absolutely despise the nasty, vicious side of social media. The keyboard warriors whose only aim is to make everyone else feel like a giant pile of worthless garbage. Recently I encountered another one of these priceless gems and I just had to speak out about it.
Over the last few years mental illness and society’s treatment of people with these conditions has become very important to me. I have found myself a supporter to some beloved people who have struggled with different issues and we’ve all travelled a very long, hard, lonely road.
It’s still such an unaccepted and misunderstood illness. I have lost count of the amount of conversations I have had with people who have told me that people who suffer with mental illness just need to cheer up and get on with the job. I have been told that my support of these people is really just enabling them to slack off and not have to work at anything. I’ve even sat in a meeting with a school teacher who told me “he didn’t believe kids suffer from mental illness – it’s always something they concoct to seek the attention of adults and their peers”. And unfortunately that’s what I encountered again in a very public forum late last year.
I was casually reading articles online and came across one about a reality celebrity who had tried unsuccessfully (thank goodness!) to take their own life. It touched me and I felt for them. I was unimpressed that the radio station who covered the story went into so much detail on the way this person tried to end their life. These stories tend to draw in kids who may be thinking similar things and I don’t think it’s smart to advertise the exact method of suicide or attempts in detail. Most of the comments from other punters were very sad and wishing this person a quick recovery. But one stood out much more and for all the wrong reasons.
He is a presenter on a rival radio station. And he went to town.
Firstly he called this person an attention seeker who was not genuine in their suicide attempt because he was only held in hospital for 24 hours. Then he went on to blast him for putting a photo on social media thanking the hospital for the treatment he got. He even suggested that this fragile human being was an idiot and a tool who should start using the hashtag #stupid in their posts from now on. Then he went on to attack anyone who disagreed with his views. I felt sick to my stomach.
I rang the radio station and pleaded with this presenter’s supervisor to get this guy’s
vitriolic shit opinion deleted. He was hesitant. I pointed out the possible bad PR for the radio station. He agreed. Then I went on to remind him of how pathetic you would have to be to attack someone online when they just tried to end their own life. He thanked me for my call. The post disappeared within minutes. Let me tell you that I didn’t contact the radio station to save their arses, I just didn’t want a person struggling with the same issues as this celeb to read this crap and it had to come down.
I googled this guy. He’s an apparent class act with a career gratifying social conscience. He’s the kind of dude who’s got his finger on the pulse of what the people think. He supports charities and declares that mental illness is s serious issue (I’m sorry what??) But I’m calling him out. He’s a fraud. Because here’s what I know.
People don’t very often fake a suicide attempt and I can tell you now that if they did they obviously still have some serious issues that need to be dealt with. Most people with mental illness are constantly calling out for help in so many ways, both subtle and confronting, but we as a society really suck at picking up on their cues. Suicide is still referred to as the coward’s way out and people are continually being shamed for attempting to take their own lives.
What I’ve learnt the very hard way is that mental illness is as real as every other serious illness out there. It’s disabling and is so much harder to understand than other illnesses because people can’t see it and for all intents and purposes the person with a mental illness seems to function OK and they look normal. But the hardest thing I’ve learnt over the last few years is that sometimes mental illness can be terminal.
People who are very precious to me have been diagnosed with depression and are being medicated for that illness. They’ve often thought about ending their own life. They don’t know why they feel like they do it’s just there. ALL. THE. TIME. Sometimes they only way they feel any better is to hurt themselves.
I can’t say that I understand it as I’ve never suffered from depression. I can tell you though as a thinking, feeling human being I’ve grieved for my loved ones as they’ve fought their battles every day. I often feel that I can’t ever sleep soundly again because I know that at any stage in their life they may fall down again and that time they may not be able to see how to get back up again. They may not ask me for my help one day and I’ll be left questioning what I missed and how I could have changed things. And the drugs and counselling can certainly help but there’s always a nagging question in the back of their mind – “What if it comes back?”.
What I would like to say is that I’m so proud of anyone who’s fighting this loneliest of battles and I will be a champion for you until society realises it’s just the same as a physical disease. You can’t control it and you can’t help it. I will always stand up for you against bullies like this jerk.
And lastly to the radio presenter in question – I hope you felt powerful as you sat behind your keyboard belittling someone who’s already struggling so much. The rest of us who were unfortunate enough to read your opinions thought you were the tool, not the celeb you were attacking. I hope you’re feeling important, I hope you felt the ego stroke. Because it’s very uncool to kick someone when they’re already so far down.
And furthermore Mr Radio DJ, if you have children, I sincerely hope they are happy and healthy and see all the joy and wonder that this world has to offer. I would hope that they never experience pain or sickness, particularly of the mental kind. Because I worry that your opinions of these illnesses would prevent them from coming to you with their burdens and I of all people know where that can lead. I hope that your arrogance gives way to understanding and acceptance one day.
Lastly sir, I must thank you for giving me the courage to speak out loud about this issue. If you hadn’t had been so awful I may never have had the chance to stand up and say that I am not ashamed to support anyone who struggles with this disease. I will not accept your cruelty and I hope you find yourself the marginalised minority in this debate. Because I truly hope that one day we all can accept mental illness as easily as physical illness and the people who struggle with it can stand tall and ask any one of us for help.
It may be a while off yet, but I have to believe we can get there.
*Remember – never be afraid to ask someone R U OK? And if you are struggling never be ashamed to ask for help.*
Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14
Beyond Blue – http://www.beyondblue.org.au