Tuesday, December 11, 2012

In The News - 12/11/12

Warning: Mildly disturbing topic ahead...

One thing that has bothered me in recent days is the story of the nurse who answered the prank call put in by the Australian DJs who were trying to speak to Kate Middleton. The nurse later killed herself, apparently because of the prank and, so it is alleged, her embarrassment and/or shame.

A large number of people seem to be saying her death is the fault of the DJs. If they had never called the hospital, the nurse would have had no reason to kill herself. She would have gone on to live a happy, full, long life... or something.

Okay, so here's the thing. When someone commits suicide, it may happen for any number of reasons, I would never presume to know every person on earth and all their reasons, but mental illness often plays a big role. The desire to harm or kill your own body is not really considered healthy. It's like starving yourself, or throwing yourself into a pit of lions. Rational, mentally-healthy people tend not to have those desires, at least not strongly enough to act upon them. Perhaps everyone has a fleeting moment of wanting to jump in front of a bus every now and then, like when you've been totally humiliated or when something terrible happens, but otherwise, for most people, it's not something you're ever actually going to do.

Probably not.

I mean, I hope not.

But it seems like every time someone does die by suicide, everyone around them asks "Why?" Which... is natural. Humans like to know "why". When there's a mass murder or something, isn't there always a focus on the perpetrator? No matter how often we say we don't WANT to see photos of the killer -- no, no! honor the victims, show us them instead! -- we still spend an inordinate amount of time listening to/reading information about the killer, because we want to know what made him do it. Maybe so next time we can try to prevent certain tragedies like those from happening. Maybe because we just want answers to things that are hard to understand.

When someone kills himself, it's no different. There are going to be questions. But sadly, there's sometimes finger-pointing among the family, friends, co-workers, or whoever. "If YOU had been more attentive to him...." "If YOU had just urged her to get help." "If only YOU had noticed the warning signs." 

Other people may blame themselves. "I should have done something differently." "If only I had been nicer to her.." "I should have done this...."

Please, if this is you... give yourself a break.

I'm not saying we shouldn't ask questions, or that it isn't natural to ask them when tragedy strikes. (And suicide is a tragedy). I'm not saying we shouldn't urge/encourage someone who we think might be suffering to go get help. I'm not saying wanting to/needing to/being made to feel guilty isn't natural to humans. But honestly? If or when someone you know kills himself, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. And it's not his mother's fault. Or his wife's fault. Or his boss's fault.

Let's get right down to it: it is more than likely the fault of a (perhaps un-diagnosed) mental illness.

Not that I think anyone should get a free pass to do whatever he pleases because he may happen to have such an illness. Like those people who kill their own little children and then themselves. NOT OKAY. No matter how sick you are, there ARE treatments out there, and by gum, I wish those treatments were more readily available to more people... but that's another topic.

So as I was saying, if someone you know commits suicide, it is not your fault. Honestly. It's a tragedy, but you didn't make it happen.

Which is not to say you should just go off and treat people poorly -- bullying and abuse are still WRONG -- and our actions do have an impact on others' lives. But no person -- no Australian radio DJ, nobody -- should be told they have "blood on their hands" because of something like this.

I'm sorry about what happened to that nurse. And I don't like prank calls, nor do I think what the DJs did was necessarily right. But they didn't kill her. And the blaming needs to stop. 

Please, when you have some time, read up on mental illnesses. If you don't have one, be glad. If you do have one, realize that there are many different kinds, and that no two people's brains/illnesses are necessarily alike. And if you have an illness and it's eating away at you or making you have dangerous thoughts, go to your doctor tomorrow. Forget the stigma. Treat it like cancer and attack it.

Meanwhile, love one another and treat others kindly.

And let's please stop blaming people for things that are utterly out of their control.

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