As a result of Robin Williams recent passing mental illness and suicide featured in the media has peaked massively and surely this is a great thing, event though caused by a truly tragic event…? As a mental health service user- should I be eternally grateful to the journalists who are finally featuring the issues which have been toying with my life for the last however many years? Unfortunately I feel the whole thing has been a very mixed blessing.
Firstly, the whole mess which was the reporting on Williams’ suicide. Despite, pleas and advice from various mental health charities such as Mind and Rethink- articles still had a tendency to be as graphic and horrifying as possible along with glorifying the decision so many feel forced into. This was foolish and showed a blatant disregard for the experts in the field who continually say deaths caused by suicide peak after untactful articles on such things along with carelessly torturing those who are struggling with such demons- fighting for their lives. It was a mess, perhaps, a non-malicious-simply mistaken mess, but a mess all the same that will have undoubtedly had a terrible effect. The tricky balance that has been made public is one between coverage and caution.
The second is the then oversimplified what I call ‘stamp out stigma response.’Reporting claiming depression as a new epidemic similar to diabetes where it is simply a matter of chemical imbalance and finding the right medication. This frustrates me as unfortunately mental illness is far more complex than that. There are elements of truth to all these statements but one also has to recognise one of the reasons behind lack of media coverage is the sheer complexity and personalised nature of it all. Beneath I have enclosed a Guardian article that was in my opinion ,finally, a realistic portrayal of mental illness and suicide. Not the easier ‘blame or brain’ approach. It’s complicated. Stigma does need to be stopped now and the cuts to already unstable services are unbelievable but I don’t believe it’s the same as a broken leg and I don’t believe it can be compared to most physical illnesses.