Today my timeline is filled with comments and eulogies to the great comedian and actor, Robin Williams. There are lots of euphemisms being bandied about, like “he was taken from us”, and “he lost his battle with addiction/depression”… let’s call a spade a spade and not dress things up linguistically; people with depression are not “battling”, this term implies a winner and a loser, it’s imagery where the ill are made to feel like their strength is in question, especially if they are not “winning” at the moment. The phrase can make us feel weak and feeble, as though we do not have the same strength of mind as the rest of you to cope in life.
Why do people undertake this lyrical dance to avoid saying certain words? Robin Williams wasn’t taken from us, it was suicide, he killed himself. Let’s say it, let’s name it. Let’s not hide it and romanticise it in fancy language.
I do not, for one second, question or underestimate the respect and warmth people feel for Robin Williams, but we use this euphemistic sidestep to ease our conscience, to make things feel like they are beyond our control, and yes, there was very little you or I could have done to help this Hollywood star, but there are people in your life, right now, who do need your support. You know someone with depression, not just because you know me, but because 1 in 3 people have it. I know at least 5 other people who have it, so you sure as hell do too.
10 days ago I posted this on Facebook;
One person liked it, and one person sent me a private message to check I was ok and give some support. Of course Facebook isn‘t the best way of reaching out to people, but if you think a person with depression is going to call you in the middle of the night when they‘re contemplating suicide, or that they‘re going to send a text and say ‘help me, please. l can’t cope anymore‘, then you need to read more about depression, because they won’t. You need to find out what are the signs, what to look out for and how you can support your friends and family who have it.
You see, there is a trap in the psychology of depression that makes us feel like we are a burden, like we are weak and getting in the way of everyone else and their happiness, that the world would be better off without us. Therefore we’re unlikely to ask you directly for help, we don‘t want to be anymore trouble, and sometimes…. sometimes we feel that even if we did reach out, you wouldn‘t understand!