I went to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 today. It was awesome. I loved the book and I loved the movie.
But throughout the movie I could not help but feel sad. As Philip Seymour Hoffman graced the screen in the effortless way that was his acting style, I couldn’t help but wonder where it had all gone wrong.
Just before the main feature began, an advert for another movie, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, was shown. In it, glimpses of Robin Williams were to be seen, reprising his role of Theodore Roosevelt.
As I watched The Hunger Games, I kept thinking of Philip and Robin and what a great loss they were. How they were so brilliant at their craft, so revered, so loved, and yet how inadequate they both must have felt to be pushed to the fatal end they both endured. As a recovering alcoholic, I know only too well that addiction is born out of a feeling of not being good enough. I have felt the pain that comes with inadequacy and the lure of suicide, knowing only too well the pain this will cause to family and friends. In that moment, the pain of living is worse than the pain of knowing the devastation your loss will cause. The promise of release from that pain all too seductive.
This week the internet has been all agog at the comments made by Mark Latham about Lisa Pryor’s comments on how she copes with motherhood. In his Financial Review article, he likens the stress of tending of his garden to the work pressures that she felt as a mother and full time medical student. He trivialises the pressure that women feel in this day and age, and goes so far as to disparage the choice of a woman to work for reasons other than financial gain.
Additionally this week was this post by Sarah Wilson in which she poses the question of whether or not her autoimmune disease can be caused, or at least exacerbated by stress. The headline was unfortunate – Is Self Hatred Making Us Sick. The backlash to this post, which was reposted on News Ltd’s website was enormous. Whist I questioned what she wrote and didn’t agree with some of it, I admired her ability to stand back and take a look at what was and wasn’t working for her. I certainly didn’t feel she was being prescriptive about what was causing my own autoimmune disease or how I should manage it.
What shocked me, though, was the unabashed vitriol that was espoused in reaction to this post. Blog posts popped up all over the place denigrating what she had said as quackery and attacking her personally. They questioned her qualification to dish out medical advice (which she was not doing) and called her credentials into question. If stress does exacerbate Sarah’s condition, the venom spat her way must have caused her great discomfort in the autoimmune department. It is this kind of cyber bullying that causes journalists to take their own lives.
And what is all the point of all this? What do the deaths of actors, the challenging of women’s coping mechanisms and a post about autoimmune disease management have in common?
At the heart of all these things is mental illness. And we don’t talk about it nearly enough.
Depression as an illness, is still a major cause of morbidity and death, and we need to understand it better, and we need to prevent people from killing themselves because they are depressed. – Changing Minds, ABC
When I got home from the movies, I decided to watch the the ABC series Changing Minds. I had taped it weeks ago, but for some reason could not bring myself to watch it. Maybe it is because I suffer from terrible clinical depression and I did not want to face the fine line that keeps me on this side of a psychiatric ward. Maybe it is because mental health is stigmatised so much that I try to lock my illness inside a cave somewhere deep inside my head, pretending that it isn’t there at all. I advocate for mental illness, yet I myself still feel stigmatised by it.
I watched the series and it shocked me. It shocked me because we simply do not talk about it enough and because of that people are not getting the help they need, especially in the wider community. People try to ignore it, they do, but it cannot be ignored.
Actors are buckling at an alarming rate because of it, Sarah was trying to connect the dots between anxiety (read mental health) and physical well being, and Mark Latham was stigmatising mental health in women in the way only he (and many others like him) can in a publication largely read by men.
Men are three times as likely to commit suicide than women. This is because the stigma is so rife, that men, in a world largely controlled by men, do not feel that they can talk about their mental illness. And if they do, they are often turned away. So they choose to leave behind loved ones and take their own lives. Does Mark Latham think he is helping the cause of those men? Never mind the women he is berating, how about the men?
Those people who chose to call Sarah a quack for her beliefs about her own condition, who chose to insult her as a person, as a journalist and as a personal blogger, did they think they were encouraging dialogue for those people who suffer from mental illness and feel that they cannot seek help? Upon reading her article, I did not see as her attacking them personally. I saw it as her seeking answers to her own condition and citing things that made sense to her, recognising that during times when she feels better mentally, she also feels better physically. She was, in fact, talking about mental health.
All of this is about mental health, about when we feel better mentally, we can operate better on a physical level too – we are better human beings. Without mental health we have nothing. Our physical systems seem harder to cope with, our demanding jobs are harder to cope with, life itself is harder to cope with.
We live in a world where pressures increase exponentially and yet the discussion of mental illness is just not happening.
The dialogue of how to address the increasing mental illness and suicide issue needs to begin in earnest. It needs to happen and it needs to happen now.
If you are experiencing any depression, suicidal thoughts or extreme mental anguish, please talk to someone you can trust, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Until next time,